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II 



ILL WHIST] 






THE ART OF JAMES McNEILL 
WHISTLER 



LONDON : GEORGE BELL AND SONS 
PORTUGAL ST. LINCOLN'S INN, W.C. 
CAMBRIDGE : DEIGHTON, BELL & CO. 
NEW YORK: THE MACMILLAN CO. 
BOMBAY : A. H. WHEELER & CO. 



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ST. IVES 
From a water colour 



At 

THE ART 

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james McNeill whistler 



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AN APPRECIATION 

BY 

T. R. WAY 

and 

G. R. DENNIS 




LONDON 
GEORGE BELL AND SONS 

1905 



First published, October, 1903. 
Second edition, revised, January, 1904. 
Third and cheaper edition, February, 1905. 



CHISWICK PRESS: CHARLES WHITTINGHAM AND CO. 
TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE, LONDON, 




TO 

LADY SEYMOUR HADEN, 

BY WHOSE SISTERLY AFFECTION AND WISE COUNSELS 
THE ROUGH PATH OF THE GREAT ARTIST 
THROUGH LIFE WAS OFTEN SMOOTHED, 
THIS VOLUME IS MOST RESPECT- 
FULLY DEDICATED BY THE 
AUTHORS 



PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION 

TOURING the fifteen months which have 
*^* elapsed since the first edition of this book 
was published, much has been written about 
Whistler, several exhibitions of his etchings and 
lithographs have been held in London, and a 
very fine and representative collection of his works 
has been gathered together and shown by the 
Copley Society of Boston. The result of this in- 
creased knowledge of Whistlers work has been to 
disarm most of the ignorant or prejudiced criticism 
with which he was formerly assailed, and it is 
reasonable to hope that the exhibition organized 
by the International Society in London will com- 
plete the good work, and that the claims of his 
admirers, which have so often been held up to 
ridicule, will be finally acknowledged to have been 
more than justified. Of course, there will always 

vii 



remain a certain number of people, even of culti- 
vated people, who are unable to appreciate or 
understand the art of Whistler. Every man of 
genius, who goes beyond the conventional in art, 
and produces original and imaginative work, will 
always find detractors. But it is certain that as 
his artistic aims and principles become better 
known, the true greatness of his work will be 
more and more widely recognized. 

In the present volume, which is the outcome of 
many years'study of Whistlers art,the authors have 
endeavoured to explain these aims and principles, 
and to point out as simply as possible, and without 
any unnecessary technicalities, the characteristics 
of his works. The kind reception given to the 
book on its first appearance encourages them to 
hope that they have been not altogether un- 
successful in their attempt. The book deals solely 
with Whistler's art, and the short biographical 
chapter which is prefixed gives only the dates of 
certain important events in his artistic career, 
avoiding personal matters. The innumerable anec- 
viii 



dotes which have been told ad nauseam about the 
master have here been deliberately excluded. 

In compiling the few biographical notes the authors 
have to acknowledge the great assistance they 
have received from Mrs. W. McNeill Whistler, 
Mrs. Livermore, and Mr. Luke Ionides. They 
have also to express their gratitude to all the 
owners of pictures and other works who have 
kindly allowed their reproduction in this book. 
Thanks are especially due to Lord Battersea, Sir 
Henry Irving, Mr. J. J. Cowan, Mr. Edmund 
Davis, Mr. J. Carfrae Alston, Mrs. F. R. Leyland, 
Mrs. W. McNeill Whistler, and Mrs. M. B. Manuel 
for permitting works in their possession to be 
specially photographed for this book; to Mr. 
George McCulloch, Lady Meux, Mr. W. Burrell 
and M. Theodore Duret (whose portrait appears 
for the first time in these pages), for allowing their 
pictures to be illustrated; to Mr. Thomas Way, 
who has permitted his great collection of pastels, 
water colours and etchings to be drawn upon with- 
out reserve; and to the Director of the Boston 

ix 



Museum of Fine Arts, Messrs. Henry Graves 
and Co., Messrs. Goupil and Co., and the Fine 
Art Society, for the help they have given in 
various ways. 

Some few corrections were made in the second 
edition, but in the present issue no further altera- 
tions have been found necessary, except in the 
pages referring to the Peacock Room. This master- 
piece of decorative art was taken last year from its 
original home in Prince's Gate, and exhibited by 
Messrs. Obach and Co., by whom it was sold to 
Mr. Freer, thus disappointing the hope expressed 
by the authors that it might find a permanent 
resting-place in the Victoria and Albert Museum. 
The only consolation one can find in the matter is 
that as the " Princesse du Pays de la Porcelaine " 
has also been acquired by the same collector, the 
Peacock Room can now be re-erected as originally 
designed. Several other pictures have recently 
changed hands, but it has not been thought neces- 
sary to chronicle these changes in the text. 

T. R. W. 
February ', 1905. G. R. D 



CONTENTS 



I. 


Introductory ..... 


i 


II. 


Mr. Whistler as a Painter . 


14 


III. 


Figure-Subjects .... 


20 


IV. 


Portraits ..... 


34 


V. 


Nocturnes, Marines and Chevalet 






Pieces 


5i 


VI. 


Etchings 


65 


VII. 


Lithographs ..... 


78 


VIII. 


Pastels, Water Colours and De- 






corative Work .... 


89 


IX. 


Mr. Whistler as a Writer . 


106 



List of Works by Mr. Whistler Exhibited 

at the Royal Academy , . .119 

Index , s • , , a .123 



XI 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



St. Ives . Frontispiece 

From a water colour in the possession of Mr. 
Thomas Way. 

James McNeill Whistler 

From a bust by Sir Edgar Boehm, R.A., in 
the possession of Mr. Thomas Way. 

Portrait of the Artist, by himself 

From the picture in the possession of Mr. 
George McCulloch. 

Portrait Study of the Artist, by himself 
From the drawing in the possession of Mr. 
Thomas Way. 

At the Piano 

From the picture in the possession of Mr 
Edmund Davis. 

Study for a White Girl . 

Reproduced in facsimile from the pastel draw- 
ing in the possession of Mr. Thomas Way. 

Symphony in White, No. 3 

From the picture in the possession of Mr 
Edmund Davis 



TO FACE 
PAGE 



22 



26 



30 



Xlll 



La Princesse du Pays de la Porcelaine . 

From the picture in the possession of Mr. 
C. L. Freer. 

The Golden Screen 

From the picture in the possession of Lord 
Battersea. 

Portrait of M. Theodore Duret . 

From the picture in the possession of M 
Duret. 

Portrait of Dr. W. McNeill Whistler 
From the picture in the possession of Mrs 
Whistler. 

Portrait of the Painter's Mother . 

From the picture in the Luxembourg Museum 

Portrait of Thomas Carlyle . 

From the picture in the Corporation Art 
Gallery, Glasgow. 

Portrait of Miss Rosa Corder 

From the picture in the possession of Mr. 
R. A. Canfield. 

The Fur Jacket 

From the picture in the possession of Mr. W. 
Burrell. 

Portrait of Lady Meux . 

From the picture in the possession of Lady 
Meux. 

Study for a Portrait of " Baby Leyland " 

Reproduced in facsimile from the drawing in 



TO FACE 
PAGE 

32 



32 
38 
40 

42 
42 

44 

44 
46 

46 



the possession of Mr. Thomas Way. 



XIV 



TO FACE 
PAGE 

Irving as Philip II. of Spain ... 48 
From the picture in the possession of Sir 
Henry Irving. 

Portrait of Master Stevie Manuel . 48 

From the picture in the possession of Mrs. 
M. B. Manuel. 

The Master Smith of Lyme Regis . . 50 

From the picture in the Museum of Fine Arts, 
Boston. 

The Little Rose of Lyme Regis . . 50 

From the picture in the Museum of Fine Arts, 
Boston. 

" Lillie in our Alley" — Brown and Gold 50 

From the picture in the possession of Mr. 
J. J. Cowan. 

The Thames in Ice ..... 56 

From the picture in the possession of Mr. 
C. L. Freer. 

Old Battersea Bridge .... 58 
From the picture in the possession of Mr. 
Edmund Davis. 

Pink and Gray — Chelsea ... 58 

From the picture in the possession of Mr. 
C. L. Freer. 

Nocturne in Blue and Silver, No. i . 60 

From the picture in the possession of Mrs. 
F. R. Leyland. 

Cremorne Gardens 60 

From the picture in the possession of Mr. 
T. R. Way. 

xv 



TO FACE 
PAGE 



Nocturne in Blue and Gold — Valparaiso 62 

From the picture in the possession of Mr. 
George McCulloch. 

The Angry Sea 62 

From the picture in the possession of Mr. 
J. J. Cowan. 

Nocturne in Brown and Gold — Chelsea 

Rags ....... 64 

From the picture in the possession of Mr. 
J. J. Cowan. 

The Cure's Little Class .... 64 
From the picture in the possession of Mr. 
J. J. Cowan. 

Dieppe — Blue and Silver ... 64 

From the picture in the possession of Mr. 
J. J. Cowan. 

Black Lion Wharf, Wapping 68 

From the etching in the British Museum. 

Rotherhithe ...... 70 

From the etching in the possession of Mr. 
Thomas Way. 

Weary . 72 

From the dry-point in the possession of Mr. 
Thomas Way. 

The Traghetto 74 

From the etching in the possession of Mr. 
Thomas Way. 

xvi 



TO FACE 
PAGE 

Early Morning 78 

From the lithograph. 

The Tall Bridge 80 

From the lithograph. 

The Toilet 82 

From the lithograph. 

Limehouse 84 

From the lithograph. 

Study for a Portrait of Mrs. Leyland . 90 
Reproduced in facsimile from the pastel in the 
possession of Mr. Thomas Way. 

Bead-Stringers, Venice .... 92 

From the pastel in the possession of Mr. 
Thomas Way. 

The Old Marble Palace, Venice . . 92 
From the pastel in the possession of Mr. 
Thomas Way. 

The Shell . ..... 94 

From the pastel in the possession of Mr. J. 
Carfrae Alston. 

Nude Study 94 

Reproduced in facsimile from the drawing in 
the possession of Mr. Thomas Way. 

Sam Weller's Landlord in the Fleet . 96 

From the early water colour in the possession 
of Mrs. W. McNeill Whistler. 

London Bridge 96 

From the water colour in the possession of 
Mr. Thomas Way. 

b xvii 



TO FACE 
PAGE 



Southend, the Pleasure Yacht . . 96 
From the water colour in the possession of 
Mr. Thomas Way. 

Chelsea Shops 98 

From the water colour in the possession of 
Mr. J. J. Cowan. 

Pink and Rose — The Mother's Sleep . 98 
From the water-colour in the possession of 
Mr. J. J. Cowan. 

Interior of the Peacock Room at No. 49, 

Prince's Gate 100 

Reproduced by permission of Messrs. Osborn 
and Mercer. 

Panels from the Peacock Room (2 pages) 102 
Reproduced by permission from the "Pall 
Mall Magazine." 

Illustration to "The Major's Daughter" 113 

By permission of Messrs. Chatto and Windus. 

Illustration to " The Morning before 

the Massacre of St. Bartholomew " 117 

By permission of Messrs. Chatto and Windus. 



Note. — The four lithographic facsimiles have been printed 
by Mr. T. Way, and the frontispiece by the Meisenbach Co., 
Ltd. The photographs have been taken by Messrs. T. R. Annan 
and Sons, Messrs. Walker and Cockerell, Mr. W. E. Gray, and 
Mr. James Hyatt. 



XVlll 



1 




james McNeill whistler. 

From the bust by Sir Edgar Eoehm, R.A. 



the art of 
james McNeill whistler 

CHAPTER I 

INTRODUCTORY 

IN attempting to analyse and describe the art 
of James McNeill Whistler, one is faced at 
the outstart with the choice of two alternatives — 
such a choice as the work of no other artist would 
offer. For either he is great — nay, of the greatest 
a master, or he is what his earliest critics called 
him — a charlatan! There is no middle course. If 
his artistic aims are true, few will deny his great- 
ness; if false, it can only be a matter of time 
before his works, divested of the glamour with 
which his admirers have surrounded them, are 
seen in their true light. No apology is needed 
for stating that it is our aim to show that he be- 
longs to the ranks of the great masters in art. 
It seems almost incredible that at this period of 
the world's history we should be considering the 

B I 



works of a contemporary artist, which, whatever 
else may be said of them, are at least so original 
as to be entirely new ; that it should be possible 
to say: " Here is a creator, a genius, who has 
brought about combinations of colour and tone 
and line which have never before been attempted; 
who has had the strength to free his art from all 
literary dependence, to break away from all the 
accepted conventions, and to rely for his effects 
solely on pure qualities of paint in tone and line 
and colour." 

It is the custom, in writing of the works of an 
artist, to place him in some group of his contem- 
poraries, or in some well-known school of paint- 
ing, and in most cases this can be done without 
difficulty. His subjects and his manner of treat- 
ing them, or the sources — often very obvious — of 
his inspiration, are generally sufficient to connect 
him with other painters. But when we try to 
place Mr. Whistler, we find that his work stands 
quite alone. By general consent he is termed an 
Impressionist, and in its truest sense the term 
perhaps describes his art better than any other. 
But the same term is applied to many painters 
of the day, between whose aims and his there is 
no sympathy whatever, and whose finished work 
bears no similarity to his. Indeed, with the pos- 
sible exception of that most exquisite painter 

2 



Albert Moore, none of his contemporaries can 
be classed with him; and it is impossible to men- 
tion the name of Albert Moore without feeling 
that the comparison between the work of the two 
artists cannot be carried very far. Both had the 
same ideals, it is true, but their treatment was 
radically different. In looking at Albert Moore's 
work, one feels that he has achieved his end com- 
pletely, that there is nothing beyond. He has 
solved his problems with mathematical accuracy, 
and the result is the unsympathetic dryness of 
work in which, though the technical achievement 
is perfect, very little is left to the imagination of 
the spectator. 

In Mr. Whistlers work, on the other hand, there 
is always present an indefinable suggestion of 
mystery — of something behind what meets the 
eye at first sight. Anyone who has lived with one 
of his pictures continually before him can testify 
how it grows gradually on the beholder, daily 
showing new beauties and providing a constant 
stimulus to the imagination. 

It has been given to few artists to excel in so 
many branches of art. In oil and water-colour 
painting, in pastel, in etching, in lithography — in 
whatever method of expression he chose from 
time to time — Mr. Whistler struck a new note, 
and without straining his medium beyond its 

3 



legitimate resources, showed that it was capable 
of being carried to a point never reached before 
either by his contemporaries, or, with very few 
exceptions, by the great masters of the past who 
have worked on the same lines. 
At the very beginning of his career Mr. Whistler 
seems to have set out on a definite path of his 
own choosing, from which he never deviated; 
and now, looking back over his life's achievement, 
the only difference to be observed between his 
earliest and his latest works lies in the inevitable 
increase of mastery over his material. Even this 
difference is apparent only to the closest students 
of his art. For to most critics the early Thames 
etchings, produced more than forty years ago, 
seem to attain the utmost perfection of technique. 
Yet if they are compared with some of the latest 
lithographs, it will be found that the same won- 
derful qualities are achieved with infinitely greater 
facility to the artist. In his early portraits he re- 
quired an enormous number of sittings from his 
models ; yet a short time before his death he 
painted in two sittings a study of a girl's head, 
which in mastery of handling is equal to anything 
he ever produced. 

It is told of Hokusai, the greatest of Japanese 
artists, that, when he was about 90 years old, he 
said that if he should live to be 1 10 he would then 

4 




PORTRAIT OF JAMES McNEILL WHISTLER BY 
HIMSELF. 



be able to draw anything and everything. Had 
Mr. Whistler happily been spared to accomplish a 
like span of years, his command over his material 
would indeed have been phenomenal! 

James Abbott McNeill Whistler was born at 
Lowell, Massachusetts, 1 on July nth, 1834. He 
came from the Irish branch of an old English 
family, of which his grandfather, Major John 
Whistler, was the first representative in America. 
His father was Major George Washington Whist- 
ler, a distinguished engineer, whose second wife, 
James's mother, was Anna Matilda McNeill, the 
daughter of Dr. C. D. McNeill, of Wilmington, 
North Carolina. At the age of nine he was taken 
to St. Petersburg, where his father held an im- 
portant appointment as engineer of the St. Peters- 
burg and Moscow Railway. Major Whistler died 
in 1849, and soon afterwards Mrs. Whistler and 
her sons returned to America, where, in 185 1, 
James entered the West Point Military Academy. 
His career here was not a success, though he se- 
cured prizes in French and in drawing, and in 1854 
he took his discharge. He then obtained a post 
as draughtsman in the office of the Coast and 

1 In the Rusldn trial he himself stated that he was born at 
St. Petersburg; but he may have meant that he was born there 
" in art " — that he received his first inspiration there. 



Geodetic Survey at Washington, in which capa- 
city he made his first etchings on the margin of a 
map. If the three months which he spent under 
government taught him the technicalities of etch- 
ing on copper they were not wholly wasted ; but 
he was quite unfitted for routine work, and early 
in 1855 he gave up his position and definitely de- 
voted himself to art. After a short visit to England 
he settled in Paris in 1855, and entered the studio 
of Gleyre, a romantic painter with whom he can 
have had no sympathy. Here, however, he was 
associated with such men as Degas, Bracquemond, 
Alphonse Legros, and Fantin-Latour; and among 
his fellow-students were Sir E. J. Poynter and 
Mr. George Du Maurier. While in Paris he exe- 
cuted the " Little French Set" of etchings, which 
were published in 1858. In 1859 Mr. Whistler 
was in London, where he lived with his brother- 
in-law, Sir Seymour Haden, in Sloane Street. 
Two of his etchings were exhibited at the Academy 
this year — probably two of the Thames Series, 
which were produced between 1859 and 1861, 
though not published until many years later. He 
afterwards shared a studio for some time with 
Du Maurier in Newman Street, Oxford Street, 
and then, after spending some months at Wap- 
ping, where he was engaged both in painting and 
etching, he settled in Lindsay Row, Chelsea. His 
6 



first important picture, " At the Piano," was hung 
at the Academy in i860, and was bought by John 
Phillip, R.A., the well-known painter of Spanish 
subjects. This was followed next year by " La 
Mere Gerard," a picture now in the possession of 
Mr. A. C. Swinburne, and for several years after 
this paintings and etchings by Mr. Whistler ap- 
peared in the Academy Exhibitions. In 1863 
" The White Girl " was sent to the Salon but re- 
jected. It was, however, hung in the " Salon 
des Refuses," where it aroused great enthusiasm 
among the critics. 

After a visit to Valparaiso in 1865-6, where he 
painted several pictures of the harbour and ocean, 
the artist again settled in Chelsea. H ere he painted 
many pictures of the great reach of the river oppo- 
site his house in Lindsay Row, as well as "The 
Thames in Ice," " The Last of Old Westminster," 
and other famous pictures of the Thames. During 
this period also were painted the series of pictures 
in which the influence of Japanese art is pre- 
dominant, chief among them being " La Princesse 
du Pays de la Porcelaine," " Die Lange Leizen — 
of the Six Marks," "The Golden Screen," "The 
Little White Girl," the "Symphony in White 
No. 3," and " The Balcony." 

In 1874 Mr. Whistler held the first exhibition of 
his work in a gallery in Pall Mall, which attracted 

7 



considerable attention. Among the pictures here 
exhibited were the " Portrait of the Painters 
Mother," which had already been hung at the 
Academy two years before, and the portraits of 
Thomas Carlyle, Miss Alexander, and Mr. and 
Mrs. Leyland, which were now seen for the first 
time. 

On the starting of the Grosvenor Gallery by Sir 
Coutts Lindsay in 1877, Mr. Whistler exhibited 
a series of nocturnes and other pictures, which 
called forth a violent attack from Ruskin in " Fors 
Clavigera." " For Mr. Whistler's own sake," he 
wrote, " no less than for the protection of the pur- 
chaser, Sir Coutts Lindsay ought not to have ad- 
mitted works into the gallery in which the ill- 
educated conceit of the artist so nearly approached 
the aspect of wilful imposture. I have seen, and 
heard, much of Cockney impudence before now; 
but never expected to hear a coxcomb ask two 
hundred guineas for flinging a pot of paint in the 
public's face." 

Mr. Whistler thereupon sued Ruskin for libel, 
claiming ,£1,000 damages for the injury done to 
his reputation. The case, which created great 
interest, was tried on November 25th and 26th, 
1878, before Baron Huddleston and a special jury, 
and resulted in a verdict for the plaintiff with one 
farthing damages. Shortly afterwards he pub- 
8 




obr 



PORTRAIT STUDY OF THE ARTIST, BY HIMSELF. 
From a black and white drawing. 



lished the first of his famous brown paper pamph- 
lets, entitled, " Whistler v. Ruskin — Art and Art 
Critics." It was dedicated to Albert Moore, who 
had given evidence in his favour at the trial, and 
was a slashing attack on art critics in general and 
Ruskin in particular. 

Early in 1879 he left London and went to Venice, 
returning towards the end of 1880 and again set- 
tling in Chelsea. The first series of Venice etch- 
ings (twelve in number) were shown at the Fine 
Art Society's Gallery in December, 1880, and early 
next year a collection of fifty-three Venice pastels 
was exhibited in the same gallery. During the 
next few years three exhibitions of Mr. Whistler's 
work were held at Messrs. Dowdeswells' Gallery 
— namely, ''Etchings and Dry Points, second 
series," a collection of fifty-one prints, 1883, and 
" Notes, Harmonies and Nocturnes," first and 
second series, 1884 and 1886. Meanwhile he had 
been exhibiting a large number of pictures at the 
Grosvenor Gallery, including the Portraits of Miss 
Rosa Corder (1879), "Connie Gilchrist Dancing" 
(1879), Mrs. H. B. (now Lady) Meux (1882)— one 
of three portraits of this lady painted at this time 
— and Lady Archibald Campbell (1884), an d nu- 
merous nocturnes and marines. 
In 1884 Mr. Whistler was elected a member of 
the Royal Society of British Artists, of which two 

9 



years later he became President. The older mem- 
bers of the Society, however, were unable to ap- 
preciate his ideals and ambitions, and, though sup- 
ported by a large body of distinguished painters, he 
was compelled to resign. He was succeeded in 1888 
by Mr. (now Sir) Wyke Bayliss. After his resigna- 
tion a complimentary dinner was given to the mas- 
ter at the Criterion Restaurant, on May 1st, 1889, 
" in recognition of his influence on art at home and 
abroad, and to congratulate him on his election to 
the Royal Academy of Munich." Mr. U nderdowne, 
Q.C., was in the chair, and proposed his guest's 
health in a brilliant speech, in the course of which 
he gave him the happy title of " Papilio mordens." 
Mr. Whistler had been working in lithography 
since the possibilities of that medium had been 
pointed out to him in 1878, and in 1887 he pub- 
lished his first collection of lithographs under the 
title of " Notes." During the next few years he 
executed a large number of drawings on the stone, 
both figure-subjects and landscape. 
In 1888 a small but important collection of his 
pictures was got together and exhibited by Miss 
Gould in the rooms of the Working Women's 
College in Queen's Square. It included the 
"Mother's Portrait," the " Carlyle," the "Miss 
Alexander," the " Rosa Corder," the '* Irving as 
Philip II. of Spain," and other pictures. 
10 



In the same year was published " Mr. Whistler's 
1 Ten o'clock,' " a lecture which he had delivered to 
audiences in London, Oxford, and Cambridge in 
1885. It is a brilliant and stimulating exposition 
of his theories on art. For years Mr. Whistler, 
always sensitive to any attacks on the dignity of 
his art, had been writing vigorous and witty letters 
to the press in reply to critics, and in 1890 he 
published, under the title of " The Gentle Art of 
Making Enemies," a collection of letters and other 
writings, including an amusingly annotated account 
of the Ruskin trial, and setting forth for the benefit 
of posterity the various controversies in which his 
original theories and his vigorous manner of up- 
holding them had from time to time involved him. 
While on the subject of his writings, mention may 
be made of another publication, issued in Paris in 
1899, entitled, " The Baronet and the Butterfly," — 
an account of the somewhat complicated legal pro- 
ceedings which resulted from a dispute with Sir 
William Eden with reference to a portrait of his 
wife which Mr. Whistler had agreed to paint. 
In 1892 an important exhibition of his work was 
held at Messrs. Goupil's Gallery, where was brought 
together a collection of " Nocturnes, Marines, and 
Chevalet pieces " of all periods, including several 
of the painter's finest works. Had anything been 
needed to establish the master's reputation, this 

11 



exhibition, containing, as it did, only forty-three 
oil paintings, would have more than sufficed to do 
so, and it is impossible not to regret that the 
opportunity was not seized to secure at least one 
picture for the nation. 

Shortly after this exhibition Mr. Whistler made 
a tour through France and Brittany, and settled in 
Paris in the Rue du Bac. Many lithographs were 
produced during 1893-4 in Brittany, in the Luxem- 
bourg Gardens and in his own house and gardens. 
In 1895 he returned to England, and spent some 
time at Lyme Regis, where he executed a group 
of paintings, including " The Master Smith" and 
" The Rose of Lyme Regis," and a number of 
lithographs, chiefly of forge subjects. In December 
of the same year, he exhibited a collection of litho- 
graphs at the Fine Art Society's Gallery. Mr. 
Whistler was again in London in 1896, and con- 
tinued the production of lithographs, among which 
the magnificent series of the Thames Embankment 
done from the Savoy Hotel are the most notable. 
In 1898 he was elected first President of the " In- 
ternational Society of Sculptors, Painters, and 
Gravers," a position which he held until his death, 
which took place on July 17th, 1903. He had 
been ailing for many months, but was at work up 
to the very last. 
Mr. Whistler received no recognition whatever 

12 



from the official art bodies in this country, though 
the British Museum was for years a buyer of all 
his etchings, until stopped by the enforcement of 
the rule which prevents them from buying the 
work of living men. Many honours were, however, 
conferred upon him by other nations. He was an 
Officer of the Legion of Honour, member of the 
Societe Nationale des Artistes Francais, hon. mem- 
ber of the Royal Academy of St. Luke (Rome), 
Commander of the Order of the Crown of Italy, 
hon. member of the Royal Academy of Bavaria, 
Chevalier of the Order of St. Michael, and hon. 
member of the Royal Academy of Dresden. We 
are not concerned here with his private life. But 
we may mention that he married Mrs. Godwin, 
widow of E. W. Godwin, a distinguished architect. 
Mrs. Whistler, who was herself a gifted artist, and 
an enthusiastic sympathizer with her husband and 
his work, died in 1896. 



13 



CHAPTER II 

MR. WHISTLER AS A PAINTER 

AS a painter Mr. Whistler stands pre-eminent 
in the three great qualities of colour, tone 
and mastery of handling. His great gift of ex- 
quisite vision — the power to select and the will to 
see only what is beautiful in his subject — is as 
noticeable in his etchings and lithographs as in his 
paintings. As a colourist he was not only able to re- 
produce what he saw in its true colours, if he wished, 
but to create new harmonies in paint, such as no 
one before him had imagined. In the handling of 
his materials he proved himself second to no one. 
He held, and as usual he carried out his theory in 
practice, that the whole surface of a painting 
should be wet while being worked on. It will be 
evident even to the layman that such a method of 
procedure presupposes infinite technical skill ; a 
painting in oils will not remain wet for very many 
hours, and to cover the whole of a large canvas, 
such as those on which he painted his full-length 

14 



portraits, at one sitting, requires not only the most 
definite knowledge on the part of the painter of 
what he intends to do, but also the ability to carry 
out his ideas to the end without the slightest check. 
It must not be supposed, however, that his great 
portraits were begun and finished on one day. 
Far from it. It is well known that he required very 
many sittings, and the picture was gradually built 
up from its first ghostly suggestion, step by step, 
until it reached the perfect state which he alone 
had foreseen. But each step included the whole 
painting, and it is probably the case that at the 
end of each sitting the picture was to all appear- 
ance quite complete. 

In studying Mr. Whistler's paintings, we find that 
in the character of the treatment his earliest ex- 
hibited works differ distinctly from those which 
succeeded them. In the " Piano Picture" and 
" La Mere Gerard " the canvas is loaded with 
paint, and there is apparent an immense vigour 
which is entirely absent from pictures of a later 
period. In their force and richness of tone they 
suggest the influence of a study of Tintoret. 
With the growth of experience and the develop- 
ment of his power, he discarded this earlier man- 
ner and began to paint with the thinnest of oil 
paint, almost as liquid as water, and always with 
a full brush. A careful study of his brush-work 

15 



shows that he attained the most extraordinary 
certainty in his command over his materials. His 
flesh is always flesh, not paint, and always too the 
flesh of his sitter. How varied in character this 
may be will appear if we compare the delicate 
semi-transparent complexion of a calm refined old 
age in the " Mother's Portrait," the ruggedness of 
the " Carlyle," the childlike bloom of the " Miss 
Alexander/' and the tender gradations of colour 
in the " Rosa Corder." He had no fixed receipt 
for mixing flesh tints, and as he himself expressed 
his ideas on almost every point of art with incom- 
parable directness and force, it may be well to 
quote his own words on this question. 1 
" The notion that I paint flesh lower in tone than 
it is in nature, is entirely based upon the popular 
superstition as to what flesh really is — when seen 
on canvas ; for the people never look at nature 
with any sense of its pictorial appearance — for 
which reason, by the way, they also never look at 
a picture with any sense of nature, but, uncon- 
sciously from habit, with reference to what they 
have seen in other pictures. Now, in the usual 
' pictures of the year' there is but one flesh, that 
shall do service under all circumstances, whether 
the person painted be in the soft light of the room 
or out in the glare of the open. The one aim of 

1 From the Catalogue of the International Exhibition, 1899. 

16 



the unsuspecting painter is to make his man 
* stand out' from the frame — never doubting that, 
on the contrary, he should really, and in truth ab- 
solutely does, stand within the frame — and at a 
depth behind it equal to the distance at which the 
painter sees his model. The frame is, indeed, the 
window through which the painter looks at his 
model, and nothing could be more offensively in- 
artistic than this brutal attempt to thrust the model 
on the hitherside of this window ! " 
In the painting of the accessories Mr. Whistler 
displayed the most consummate skill. The flowers 
he so loved to introduce in his early pictures are 
dainty, living semi-transparent realities, each petal 
drawn with a single touch, pure and brilliant in 
colour, yet never asserting themselves beyond their 
proper place. In the ornaments, such as Chinese 
vases, lacquer pots and trays, Japanese fans and 
colour prints, he showed equal technical skill, and 
he delighted in the most complex problems in con- 
nection with the costumes of his sitters. The 
texture of the materials he painted is always re- 
cognizable at a glance, yet there is no effort in 
them, no attempt to bring them into prominence. 
Look at the lace in the " Mothers Portrait/' per- 
fectly suggested, but with no definite pattern 
carefully wrought out as Crivelli or Holbein 
would have done it ; the elaborate embroidery of 

c 17 



the robe of the " Princesse du Pays de la Porce- 
laine "; the white muslin sleeves showing the flesh 
beneath, and the muslin flounces with which several 
of his early figures are draped ; the felt hats 
decked with ostrich plumes, so beloved also of 
Velasquez : all are painted with superb skill, each 
in its proper place within the picture, surrounded 
with that most illusive of all things to paint — the 
atmosphere. 

So far we have dealt almost entirely with Mr. 
Whistler's painting of figure-subjects, but in his 
landscapes, and sea and river scenes, his handling 
is equally masterly. Whatever his subject, he 
never attempted to hide his brush-work : in his 
large canvases he used a large brush, and in his 
small pictures a small one, and in both the bold 
sweep of the brush full of pigment can always be 
seen. It is never softened down by retouching, 
because, having been thoroughly thought out, it 
expresses exactly what its author intended. At 
first, in such pictures as " The Thames in Ice," 
and " The Last of Old Westminster," which be- 
long to the same period as " The Piano Picture," 
he used great impasto and force. A little later, in 
two pictures of the river at Chelsea, the surface of 
the painting is wrought to the highest point of 
perfection, as smooth as ivory ; but this style was 
not long maintained, as he seemed to prefer work- 
18 



ing with a thinner pigment and in a more facile 
manner. He has painted water with incomparable 
skill, notably in the " Valparaiso Harbour," and 
in the river scenes, where by a turn of the brush 
in the middle of a long sweeping stroke he is able 
to give a perfect rendering of the luminous oily 
patches so frequent on tidal waters. With a single 
full brush, as in " The Angry Sea," he suggests 
the waves breaking on the shore — a living mass 
of moving water, not a fixed line full of detail, such 
as an instantaneous photograph will give. 
It is very difficult to explain in words this great 
mastery of handling, except in the presence of the 
pictures themselves ; but anyone who will take the 
trouble to study them carefully, at the proper dis- 
tance, will soon realize the technical skill which 
created them. It must be confessed that this is 
the last thing the artist himself would have desired 
or encouraged. What he wished us to see was the 
picture as a whole, the perfect result of his labour ; 
but it is none the less fascinating to try to discover 
how this result was brought about. 

o 



19 



CHAPTER III 

FIGURE-SUBJECTS 

IT was Mr. Whistler's custom to call his pic- 
tures " Notes," "Harmonies," " Symphonies," 
" Arrangements," or "Nocturnes" in this or that 
colour ; and his reasons for adopting this nomen- 
clature are worth quoting, as they give the key to 
much in his art that has puzzled the critics. " The 
vast majority of English folk," he says, 1 "cannot 
and will not consider a picture as a picture, apart 
from any story which it may be supposed to tell. 
My picture of a 'Harmony in Gray and Gold* 
is an illustration of my meaning — a snow scene 
with a single black figure and a lighted tavern. I 
care nothing for the past, present or future of the 
black figure, placed there because the black was 
wanted at that spot. All that I know is that my 
combination of gray and gold is the basis of the 
picture. Now this is precisely what my friends 
cannot grasp. They say : ' Why not call it " Trotty 

1 The Red Rag (" Gentle Art of Making Enemies," pp. 126- 
128). 

20 



Veck " and sell it for a round harmony of golden 
guineas ? ' — naively acknowledging that, without 
baptism, there is no . . . market ! ... As music 
is the poetry of sound, so is painting the poetry 
of sight, and the subject-matter has nothing to do 
with harmony of sound or of colour. The great 
musicians knew this. Beethoven and the rest wrote 
music — simply music ; symphony in this key, con- 
certo or sonata in that. . . . Art should be in- 
dependent of all claptrap — should stand alone, and 
appeal to the artistic sense of eye or ear, without 
confounding this with emotions entirely foreign to 
it, as devotion, pity, love, patriotism, and the like. 
All these have no kind of concern with it; and that 
is why I insist on calling my works ' arrangements ' 
and ' harmonies.' " 

It is interesting to note, however, that Mr. Whistler 
did not adopt this method of naming his pictures 
until he had been exhibiting for many years. 
Apparently the " Symphony in White, No. 3," 
shown at the Academy in 1867, was the first pic- 
ture to bear the distinctive nomenclature which 
afterwards became a matter of principle, though 
the titles of " The White Girl" (1862), and "The 
Golden Screen" and "The Little White Girl" 
(1865), show that the decorative quality of the 
painting was always of more importance to the 
artist than the subject. Many of the early pictures 

21 



were retitled in later years — thus " The White 
Girl" and "The Little White Girl" became 
" Symphonies in White," Nos. i and 2. 
The first picture exhibited by Mr. Whistler was 
"At the Piano," which was hung at the Academy 
in i860 and now belongs to Mr. Edmund Davis. 
It represents a lady in black — Mrs. (now Lady) 
Seymour Haden, the painter's sister — seated at a 
grand piano, while her little daughter, who figures 
in so many of Mr. Whistlers early etchings, leans 
against the instrument and gazes with rapt attention 
at her mother. Under the piano are some green 
violin-cases, and behind the player to the left is a 
table with a blue and green bowl on it. The pose of 
the child is full of grace and charm, and her white 
dress stands out in strong contrast against the 
dark brown wood of the piano and the rich red of 
the carpet ; but the perfect tone of the white en- 
tirely overcomes any suggestion of violence or 
harshness, and the wall above the piano is filled 
in a very satisfying way with the lower edges of 
framed pictures hanging on it. The effect of the 
whole picture is one of great dignity and repose. 

" La Mere Gerard," which followed next year, 
is a powerful study of the head of an old French 
peasant woman, wearing a white-frilled cap; it is 
very rich in colour and was on one occasion jokingly 
described by the artist himself as a work by an old 

22 



master, a " Tintoret," and the description is not 
unwarranted. 

With the " Piano Picture" may be mentioned 
"The Music- Room," now in America, a picture 
which has inspired some members of the New 
English Art Club more perhaps than any other 
work of our day. The principal figure is a lady in 
a riding-habit to the right of the picture, while in 
the background a little girl in white is seated 
reading. In a looking-glass to the left is seen the 
reflection of a lady seated at a piano. The paint- 
ing of the accessories — the green shaded lamp 
over the girl's head, the chintz curtains, the por- 
celain vase reflected in the mirror — is of the most 
marvellous brilliance, and the whole picture is 
pitched in the highest possible key of colour. 
Following on these pictures came a group of 
works in which the influence of Japan is unmis- 
takable; and in considering them it is necessary 
to bear in mind the nature and extent of this in- 
fluence on Mr. Whistler's art. It is true that the 
artist of our time has but the same tools to work 
with as were used by the Greeks and Egyptians. 
The writer, indeed, may be relieved of some of 
his labour by the use of the fountain-pen or the 
typewriter, but his handwriting is of no importance 
to his art — it forms no part of his literary tech- 
nique. On the other hand, as Mr, Whistler him- 

23 



self pointed out, 1 " the painter has but the same 
pencil — the sculptor the chisel of centuries." 
Nevertheless he who runs may read, and it is 
clear that the artist of the present day may enter 
into the inheritance provided by the experience of 
ages if he have the will and the ability to do so. 
All the great painters have profited in this way 
by the work of their European predecessors. 
Mr. Whistler went further; and it is his great 
distinction that he was the first to gather up and 
mix in one crucible the essence of the pictorial 
arts of the East and of the West. 
In the composition and arrangement of their pic- 
tures, as well as in the spirit in which they ap- 
proach Nature as their source of inspiration, the 
artists of China and Japan differ radically from 
the great masters of European schools; so radic- 
ally, indeed, that it is only within the last few 
years that Western critics have begun to appreci- 
ate the beauty of their works. Mr. Whistler was 
an enthusiastic student and admirer of Japanese 
paintings and colour-prints at a time when they 
were generally looked upon as mere eccentric 
curiosities, and a quarter of a century before they 
became sought after by collectors; and the strength 
of his personality is shown by the fact that he was 
able to assimilate the artistic principles and ideals 
1 "Ten o'Clock," p. 25. 
24 



of the East without ever for a moment losing his 
own individuality. He saw what was beautiful in 
oriental art, and developed his own art for a time 
on the same lines, but even in pictures such as 
11 The Balcony," " La Princesse du Pays de la 
Porcelaine" and "The Golden Screen," in which 
he clothed his models in Japanese costumes and 
surrounded them with Japanese accessories, the 
Eastern influence, obvious as it is, is modified by 
European tradition and European ideals. In 
" The Balcony," the background is formed by the 
Chelsea reach of the Thames, and in the " Sym- 
phonies in White," Nos. 2, 3 and 4, although 
Japanese fans, pottery and umbrellas are intro- 
duced, and Eastern inspiration is evident, yet the 
models themselves, both in drapery and in char- 
acter, are purely classical in feeling, and the in- 
fluence is to be seen chiefly in the decorative 
arrangement of masses of pure colour, sometimes 
pale, sometimes strong, against a low-toned white 
background, and in the absence of all sharp defini- 
tion of light and shade. In the figure-subjects 
with which we are now concerned, in order to 
avoid the otherwise inevitable masses of dark 
shadow, Mr. Whistler made use of an extremely 
broad, quiet light, such as that in which Holbein 
placed his sitters — a light which recalls that of a 
gray day out of doors. By so doing he added yet 

2 5 



another difficulty to his painting, since for the 
relief of his figures he was obliged to rely entirely 
on the extraordinarily subtle atmosphere with 
which he surrounded them, without the aid of the 
high lights and deep shadows on near objects, so 
beloved of other painters. 

The four " Symphonies in White " form a group 
by themselves. The first, after being rejected 
by the Salon, was exhibited under the name of 
"The White Girl" in the " Salon des Refuses" 
in 1863, the second and third, entitled "The 
Little White Girl " and the " Symphony in White, 
No. 3," were hung at the Academy in 1865 and 
1867; while the final design for the fourth, which 
was never completed, is now in the possession of 
Mr. C. L. Freer. 

In " The White Girl " the model stands facing the 
spectator in front of a white curtain. She is very 
simply dressed and holds a lily in her hand. The 
lines of the draperies and the figure are most grace- 
ful, and the picture is a delicate harmony in white 
tones, relieved only by the girl's dark red hair 
and the soft furs on which she stands. The face 
is full of individuality and charm. Here, as in so 
many of Mr. Whistler's pictures, the most delight- 
ful effect is produced out of the simplest material 
by sheer beauty of line and tone. 
Another " White Girl," painted at the same time, 
26 



STUDY FOR A WHITE GIRL. 

From the pastel. 



was unfortunately defaced by its author, but enough 
remains to show that it was as perfect a picture as 
its companion. The same girl who figures in the 
picture just described, is represented in life size, 
looking straight out at the spectator. Her white 
dress is relieved by a pink and black rosette, and 
a pink cloak hangs from her left arm, while in her 
right hand she holds a fan. Some soft folds of 
muslin round her neck serve to emphasize the 
charming oval of her face. To the left is some 
pink japonica, and on the wall above part of the 
frame of a picture. This is one of the earliest 
pictures in which Mr. Whistler made use of 
Japanese matting on the floor — a material which 
was not then easily obtained. Indeed, it would 
seem as though he must have had it specially 
imported for him, so perfectly does it always har- 
monize with the tone of his paintings. A study 
in pastel for this picture is here illustrated in fac- 
simile. 

"The Little White Girl" ("Symphony in White, 
No. 2"), which belongs to Mr. A. H. Studd, is 
still more lovely than "The White Girl." It re- 
presents a young girl standing in front of the 
fireplace, with her arm on the mantelpiece, on 
which are a blue and white porcelain vase and a 
bright piece of red lacquer. She is simply dressed 
in pure white and holds a brilliantly decorated 

27 



Japanese fan in her hand. Her face and head are 
reflected in the looking-glass, in which are to be 
seen also reflections of two pictures on the walls. 
On the right are some sprays of delicate pink and 
white azalea. The girl herself has no claim to 
beauty, and curiously enough this fact seems to 
give additional charm to the picture. It is impos- 
sible to look at it without feeling what a superb 
result has been achieved out of homely materials. 
The colours used are most brilliant; the red of 
the lacquer, the blues of the vase and the Japanese 
fan, the pink of the azaleas are all of the strongest, 
yet so absolutely perfect are they in themselves 
and in their relation to one another that the whole 
seems like some exhilarating allegro in a major 
key. This picture with its haunting beauty is so 
full of poetic charm and mystery that one cannot 
wonder that it inspired Mr. Swinburne to write 
the poem entitled " Before the Mirror," which 
begins : 

"White rose in red rose-garden 

Is not so white ; 
Snowdrops that plead for pardon 

And pine for fright 
Because the hard East blows 
Over their maiden rows 

Grow not as this face grows from pale to bright." 

The following verses were printed after the title 
in the catalogue of the Academy Exhibition : 
28 



II Come snow, come wind or thunder 

High up in air, 
I watch my face, and wonder 

At my bright hair ; 
Nought else exalts or grieves 
The rose at heart, that heaves 

With love of her own leaves and lips that pair. 

II I cannot tell what pleasures 
Or what pains were ; 

What pale new loves and treasures 

New years will bear : 
What beam will fall, what shower, 
What grief or joy for dower ; 

But one thing knows the flower ; the flower is fair." 

It may be interesting to record that originally the 
whole poem was printed on strips of gilded paper 
which were fastened to the sides and lower edge 
of the frame surrounding the picture. 
The " Symphony in White, No. 3," now in the 
possession of Mr. Edmund Davis, is a very un- 
usual but most graceful composition of two girls, 
one of whom is seated on a couch, while the other 
is on the ground, leaning against it. The lines 
resulting from the grouping are most satisfying ; 
but the greatest charm of the picture comes from 
the exquisite skill with which the warm and cool 
tones of the white and cream-coloured dresses, 
the couch, and the gray-blue and white matting 
on the floor contrast and blend with one another ; 
whilst touches of definite colour are given by the 

29 



red hair of the girls, the red fan which one of 
them has dropped, and the green leaves and purple 
flowers on the right of the picture 
When this picture was exhibited in the Academy 
in 1867, Mr. P. G. Hamerton raised the objection 
against the title on the ground that it was " not 
precisely a symphony in white," owing to the other 
colours introduced ; and as similar criticism is still 
sometimes heard, it may be worth while to give 
Mr. Whistler's characteristic reply : " Bon Dieu ! 
did this wise person expect white hair and chalked 
faces ? And does he, in his astounding consequence, 
believe that a symphony in F contains no other 
note, but shall be a continued repetition of F, F, 
F? . . . Fool!" 1 

Mr. Whistler's series of Symphonies in White 
culminated in a picture which, alas, was never 
destined to be completed. The " Symphony in 
White, No. 4," or " The Three Girls," also some- 
times called " The Hothouse," was a picture for 
which he had made numberless studies both for 
the composition and drawing of the figures, and 
for the arrangement of colours ; the final design 
was a large panel painted some time in the early 
seventies and shown at one of the exhibitions of 
the Society of British Artists. Beneath an awning 
three girls, draped in white robes of classic char- 
1 " Gentle Art of Making Enemies," p. 45. 
30 



acter, are tending a number of flowers planted in 
pots of bright hue, and arranged upon an open- 
work stand of greenish blue colour. The central 
mass of the picture is a dwarf almond tree in full 
bloom of pink blossom, planted in a vase of ver- 
milion shade. Two of the girls carry pink draperies, 
and all wear caps of bright red or purple. They 
are grouped around the almond, one bending low 
over it, while another leans over her and the third 
stands facing them, holding behind her head a 
Japanese umbrella, with a broad pink band round 
its white centre. The graceful curves of the bending 
figures and the dignity of the standing girl — which 
recalls nothing in art so much as the Venus de 
Milo — beneath the great oval of the umbrella, 
are emphasized by the long straight lines of the 
flower-stand and the low greenish white wall 
which forms the background. A bright blue sea 
is visible between the wall and the awning. The 
dominant notes of colour are the scarlet head- 
dresses and flower-vase, the blue sea and flower- 
stand, and the pink of the almond tree ; pink and 
purple notes link these colours together into a 
marvellously brilliant and harmonious whole. Mr. 
Whistler began to paint the finished picture of 
this subject on more than one canvas, with the 
figures about the size of life, and it was intended 
to be hung in the Peacock Room in Mr. Leyland's 

3i 



house. It was never completed, but Mr. Chapman 
owns a large canvas which Mr. Whistler left half 
finished when he went to Venice. 
Of other pictures which belong to the Japanese 
period, the most important are " La Princesse du 
Pays de la Porcelaine" (1864); " Die Lange 
Leizen — of the Six Marks" (Academy, 1864); 
"The Golden Screen" (Academy, 1865); and 
" The Balcony" (Academy, 1870). All these pic- 
tures are characterized by dainty charm of colour, 
subtle and delicate gradations of light, grace and 
dignity of line, and withal by a distinction of style 
which defies exact definition. 
The beautiful full-length portrait of Miss Spartali, 
known as " La Princesse du Pays de la Porcelaine," 
of which the Peacock Room in Mr. Leyland's house 
was once the setting, is now in the possession of 
Mr. W. Burrell. It is a wonderful creation, gorgeous 
in colour and highly decorative in treatment. The 
full-length figure is clothed in an elaborate Japanese 
costume, and holds a fan in her hand. On the floor 
is a brilliant rug, and, behind, a delicately painted 
screen. The grace and dignity of the " Princesse," 
the flowing lines of whose figure contrast, as in so 
many of Mr. Whistler s pictures, with the straight 
simple lines of the screen in the background, and 
the splendour of her surroundings, combine to 
make up a whole of incomparable beauty. 
32 




T. R, Annan and Sons photo. ~\ 

LA PRINCESSE DU PAYS DE LA PORCELAINE. 



" The Golden Screen," — a caprice in purple and 
gold — which is in the possession of Lord Batter- 
sea, represents a lady dressed in a richly embroid- 
ered Japanese robe, seated on the floor, looking 
at a colour print by Hiroshige, which she holds in 
her hand. Other prints lie at her feet, and behind 
is a splendid old painted Japanese screen. 
In "The Balcony," an arrangement in flesh-colour 
and green, the river, with a long line of buildings 
on the opposite shore, forms a background of gray> 
which serves to set off the brilliant group of girls 
in wonderful Japanese costumes on the balcony in 
the foreground. " It is," says Mr. Theodore Child, 1 
"a vision of form and colour in luminous air, a 
Japanese fancy realized on the banks of the gray 
Thames." 

Mention may also be made of a very early study, 
in Mr. Freer's collection, of a nude Venus stand- 
ing on the seashore ; behind her the blue-green sea 
rising to a very high purple horizon forms an ex- 
quisite background to the softly modelled flesh, 
and from the upper side of the canvas masses of 
pink and red blossom are introduced into the 
foreground and complete a splendid harmony. 

1 "Harper's Magazine," September, 1889. 



33 



CHAPTER IV 

PORTRAITS 

THERE are but few of the great painters who 
have not delighted in portraiture. Many of 
the greatest — Holbein, Rembrandt, Velasquez — 
have made it their principal work in life ; others 
equally great, such as Tintoret, have been forced 
to paint portraits as a means of living, while en- 
gaged on work which they considered more im- 
portant. To Mr. Whistler portrait painting was as 
serious as any other branch of his art, and the 
general verdict is that in portraiture he reached his 
highest achievement as a painter. It is possible to 
understand, though not easy to sympathize with, 
people who fail to appreciate the tender beauty of 
his nocturnes, or who are not touched by the de- 
corative charm of his Japanese arrangements; but 
his portraits, — though it is true that they were re- 
ceived with the same ignorant conservatism which 
ever greets what goes beyond the conventional in 
art — stand now beyond criticism; and it is per- 
34 



missfble to believe that the " Mothers Portrait," 
the "Carlyle," the " Miss Alexander," the " Rosa 
Corder," and many others, will always be ranked 
among the greatest pictures of all time. 
Mr. Whistler's portraits differ radically from 
those of his contemporaries. He seems first of all 
to have considered what may be called the decora- 
tive qualities of his sitter ; in his early period 
especially he aimed at producing a picture which 
in its colour-scheme, and the arrangements of 
masses of light and dark, should be beautiful in 
itself, and equally interesting to the spectator, 
whether he happened to know the sitter or not. 
He never attempted to produce a startling real- 
istic likeness, such as is approved by the philistine 
and the Academician. But after much study he 
gained an insight into the real character of the 
man or woman he was painting, and portrayed 
the best side of that character ; the result, though 
it was an idealized version, as remote from all 
transitory expression as the Infantas of Velasquez 
in the Louvre or the Philip IV. in the National 
Gallery, remaining always a real likeness of his 
model. It is true that some of his sitters were dis- 
appointed in their portraits, but, as St. James 
pointed out long ago, no man realizes his true out- 
ward appearance ; after " beholding his natural 
face in a glass" he "goeth his way, and straight- 

35 



way forgetteth what manner of man he was." One 
instance may be recorded in which a lady com- 
plained that her portrait — a head and bust — though 
a charming picture, was not a good likeness. Some 
time afterwards some friends were looking through 
the family album, which contained many photo- 
graphs from life, and it was generally acknowledged 
that the only satisfactory likeness of the lady was 
a photograph of this very picture. 
Mr. Whistler has himself laid down the prin- 
ciples by which he was guided in portrait painting, 
knowing that a picture of this kind has to be lived 
with, and that transient expression will rarely 
please the beholder for any great length of time : 
"The imitator," he says, 1 "is a poor kind of 
creature. If the man who paints only the tree, or 
flower, or other surface he sees before him were 
an artist, the king of artists would be the photo- 
grapher. It is for the artist to do something 
beyond this : in portrait painting to put on canvas 
something more than the face the model wears for 
that one day ; to paint the man, in short, as well 
as his features ; in arrangement of colours to treat 
a flower as his key, not as his model." 
For many years Mr. Whistler seemed to have a 
great preference for painting the full-length figure 

1 "The Red Rag"— "Gentle Art of Making Enemies,'* 5 
p. 128. 

36 



in life-size. Unfortunately the great size of the 
canvases required for such portraits is a disad- 
vantage in an ordinary house, as they can only be 
properly seen in a gallery or in a very large room, 
where they can be hung so that the bottom of the 
frame almost rests on the floor — not, as we usually 
see them, with the feet on the level of our eyes. 
Yet the principle is right, and the result far more 
satisfactory than when the frame cuts off the figure 
at the knees or in the middle. The whole being 
is before us in his natural attitude, and in graceful 
and dignified repose. The great full-lengths of 
Velasquez probably taught him the value of this 
arrangement, which, however, he carried out in his 
own way, never attempting to give the great force 
and vigour of effect which the Spanish master 
delighted in, but posing his models in a much 
more subdued light such as is natural to our 
more northern climate. It will be noticed how full 
of resource he was in overcoming the difficulties 
presented by the dress of his sitters. A woman's 
costume is as a rule comparatively easy for an 
artist to deal with ; but a full-length portrait of a 
man standing is much more difficult to manage. 
The two parallel lines of the legs present a tre- 
mendous problem, especially in evening dress, 
graceful though it can be. Yet it will be seen how 
admirably the difficulties are overcome in the 

37 



portrait of M. Duret, which we illustrate. The full- 
length figure of Mr. Leyland is dealt with in a 
somewhat similar way, the dark figures in each 
case bein^ relieved against li^ht backgrounds, 
with few accessories of any kind. 

Several pictures which are in reality portraits, 
have already been referred to in the previous 
chapter. But the beauty and the value of these 
paintings depend on the colour-scheme and com- 
position, and the titles given to them show that 
the artist considered them primarily as arrange- 
ments in colour, the fact of their representing 
individual sitters being of secondary importance. 
Passing to the portraits proper, Mr. Whistler's 
studies of himself must first be considered. 
Of these the " Portrait of Himself as a Young 
Man," in the possession of Mr. George McCulloch, 
which is here reproduced, is the most important. 
Mr. R. A. M. Stevenson pointed out the masterly 
simplicity of the composition. " Scarce a portrait 
outside the work of Velasquez, Titian, or Rem- 
brandt," he wrote, 1 " is placed on the canvas with the 
simple telling effect of this one. How many heads 
look as if they were chucked on to a canvas, and 
as if with equal effect they might have been chucked 
on to any other ? Let your attention climb the 

1 Quoted in the "Art Journal," October, 1897. 

33 




Manzi, Joy ant and Co. photo. ] 

PORTRAIT OF M. THEODORE DURET. 



swaggering line of the hat and head of this figure, 
and tell me if you could willingly lose the running 
rhythm of pleasant spaces that ripples between 
it and the stiff four-sided frame. It is like the 
changing counterpoint that follows a repeated bass, 
and you might as well play Bach with one finger 
as dispense with the intervals of proportion that 
Mr. Whistler has placed between his figure and 
his frame. If you call this a question of mere de- 
coration, look again, and you will see that the 
aroma of individuality disengaged from this por- 
trait comes in great measure from the composition, 
which emphasizes the swinging energy of the line 
of the head by contrasting it with the obstinate 
rectitude of the frame. There is no tedium and 
nothing mechanical or over-symmetrical about this 
picture ; yet the dropping of the figure between 
the two verticals of the frame is like an interval 
in music justly hit. The two spaces of background 
on either side, one spread out and tranquil, the 
other confined and jagged, complete each other 
admirably." 

In another early portrait the artist represents 
himself in a large hat and with bushy hair, the 
head and bust only being shown. This picture is 
now in New York. He also painted his own por- 
trait at full length in the painting, entitled, " The 
Artist's Studio," a small canvas in the Japanese 

39 



manner, belonging to Mr. Douglas Freshneld. 
Another early portrait — a pastel drawing on brown 
paper — is reproduced in this volume. 1 
Of very great interest too is the portrait of the 
painter's brother, Dr. W. McNeill Whistler, the 
famous throat surgeon, which, by the kindness of 
his widow, we are able to illustrate. It is a 
companion picture to his own and would seem to 
have been painted at about the same period, 
probably soon after Dr. Whistler came to London 
after serving under Lee in the American War. 
The placing of the head upon the canvas is most 
distinguished, and the colour is rich and harmoni- 
ous : there is but a slight suggestion of the bust, 
but nevertheless the effect is very satisfactory. 
From these portraits of himself and his brother it 
is natural to pass to the " Portrait of the Painter's 
Mother," which was exhibited at the Academy in 
1872, and is now in the Luxembourg. Mr. Whistler 
called this picture an " Arrangement in Gray and 
Black," and protested that the fact of the original 
having been his mother was no concern of the 
public. "To me," he said, "it is interesting as a 

1 The illustration which we print at the beginning of this 
volume is from the fine bust of the artist modelled in the 
seventies by Sir Edgar Boehm, R.A., now in the possession of 
Mr. Thomas Way, and we may here mention that there is 
in existence a very beautiful oil painting of the youthful 
Whistler, by Sir William Boxall, R.A. 

40 




PORTRAIT OF DR. W. McNEILL WHISTLER. 



an effect. The white cap, the lace cuffs and hand- 
kerchief, the delicate, beautiful hands — they seem 
so inevitable, all trace of the labour which wrought 
them is so perfectly concealed that you take them 
for granted, and admiration of the painter is 
swallowed up by delight in the beauty of his work. 
That such a picture as this should ever have been 
allowed to leave this country is nothing less than 
a national misfortune. Had anyone dreamt that 
Mr. Whistler would have consented to part with 
it, there could have been no difficulty in raising 
the sum required for the purchase. One wonders 
whether the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest had 
any misgivings when they heard that the French 
Government had secured this masterpiece for an 
insignificant sum ; and that its home was to be in the 
Luxembourg instead of in the National Gallery. 
With the portrait of the painter's mother must be 
classed that of Thomas Carlyle, which resembles 
it in general arrangement. There is, however, a 
very marked difference in the handling of the two 
pictures, the rugged strength of the great writer 
and critic being emphasized by the vigorous brush- 
work, especially in the painting of the head, while 
in the mother's portrait the treatment is made to 
accord with the sweetness and simplicity of the 
sitter. In the portrait of Carlyle the artist has 
certainly achieved his aim of " painting the man, as 
42 




PORTRAIT OF THOMAS CARLVLK. 

By permission of Henry Graves and Co. 



well as his features. " 1 1 is a marvellous study of char- 
acter, revealing' to us the whole nature and intellect 
of the man, the weariness of the philosopher near 
the end of his long life musing upon the folly and 
futility of human life. The painting was first seen 
at Mr. Whistler's exhibition in 1874, and was again 
exhibited in the first Grosvenor Gallery Exhibi- 
tion, in 1877. It was afterwards bought, in 1891, 
for ;£i,©oo by the Corporation of Glasgow, whose 
action, though it aroused much indignant protest 
at the time, has since been more than justified. 
The Corporation are indeed entitled to great credit, 
as the purchase of this picture — the first acquired 
by a public gallery, and the first for which an 
adequate price was paid — may be considered as 
the first step towards the public recognition of the 
artist's greatness. 

We turn from these portraits of an old man and 
an old woman to consider that of a child — Miss 
Alexander. " This little girl," says Mr. George 
Moore, 1 " is the very finest flower and the cul- 
minating point of Mr. Whistler's art. The eye 
travels over the canvas seeking a fault. In vain; 
nothing has been omitted that might have been 
included, nothing has been included that might 
have been omitted. There is much in Velasquez 
that is stronger, but nothing in this world ever 
1 "Modern Painting," p. 15. 

43 



seemed to me so perfect as this picture." Few will 
consider this eulogy exaggerated. As becomes 
the subject, there is more gaiety in the setting of 
this picture than in the preceding. The girl 
stands facing to the left, with her foot advanced, 
against a gray-green background with black 
wainscotting below. She is dressed in white and 
holds a gray felt hat with a large feather in her 
hand. Above her head flutter two orange butter- 
flies, and there are some daisies on the right and 
a pile of draperies on the left. The figure is relieved 
from its background by an envelope of air which 
entirely surrounds it, and this is perhaps the most 
remarkable characteristic of the picture. You feel 
that you could pass behind the girl with ease, so per- 
fect is the suggestion of atmosphere. The model- 
ling of the face and of the legs and feet is perfect, 
and the picture is reminiscent of Velasquez, one of 
whose Infantas in the Louvre is recalled, as Mr. 
George Moore has pointed out, by the painting of 
the blonde hair. " There is also," adds the same 
critic, " something of Velasquez in the black notes 
of the shoes. Those blacks — are they not perfectly 
observed? How light and dry the colour is! How 
heavy and shiny it would have become in other 
hands; notice, too, that in the frock nowhere is 
there a single touch of pure white, and yet it is all 
white — a rich, luminous white that makes every 

44 




PORTRAIT OF MISS ROSA CORDER. 

By permission of Messrs. Henry Graves and Co. 




T. R. Annan and Sons photo.] 

THE FUR JACKET. 



other white in the gallery seem either chalky or 
dirty. What an enchantment and a delight the 
handling is! how flowing, how supple, infinitely 
and beautifully sure, the music of perfect accom- 
plishment !" 

The portrait of " Miss Rosa Corder," exhibited at 
the Grosvenor Gallery in 1879, is one of the many 
portraits in which Mr. Whistler painted the figure 
dressed in black against a background so dark 
as to appear black. Miss Corder was herself a 
painter of some distinction and it is possible that 
she inspired him in a different manner from his 
earlier sitters. As a result the picture, as a technical 
achievement, ranks among his finest works. In the 
subtle gradation of the flesh tints and complete 
absence of brushwork throughout, the picture 
suggests a fine Holbein portrait as much as a 
Velasquez, though the latter master is irresistibly 
recalled by the pose of the figure and the swing of 
the arm and hat. The softness of the edge of the 
profile of the head seen against the great depth of 
the background is nothing less than marvellous. 
Though somewhat similar in general treatment, 
the portrait known as " The Fur Jacket" (belong- 
ing to Mr. W. Burrell), represents a personality 
of a wholly different character, and her elegant 
and refined face contrasts strongly with the al- 
most masculine type of the " Rosa Corder." It is 

45 



a charming picture, and though not elaborated to 
the pitch of the earlier portrait, its winning grace 
suggests that, of the two, this would be the painting 
which one would sooner live with. 
While in touch with Mr. Leyland, Mr. Whistler 
painted full-length portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Ley- 
land and of their daughters. Of these only the 
two former, which were exhibited in 1874, were 
finished. Both Mr. and Mrs. Leyland are repre- 
sented standing, the former being in a frock coat 
with a cloak on his left arm, while Mrs. Leyland 
is painted in a pink robe, with her hands behind 
her back and her face turned in profile. At 
least three studies of Mr. Leyland's daughters 
were painted. One represents a young lady in a 
riding habit and silk hat standing against a dark 
brown panelled wall, on warm-coloured matting; 
in another the model, in a long white dress with a 
large white hat, stands on gray matting against 
a black background; while the third, the original 
" Blue Girl," a portrait of " Baby Leyland" (now 
Mrs. Val. Prinsep) was destroyed and cut up by 
Mr. Whistler. There remain, however, two beauti- 
ful paintings of blue jars full of flowers which 
formed part of the background. Later on he re- 
peated this same scheme of colour in the picture 
exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery, and entitled 
" Scherzo in Blue." 
46 





Goupil and Co. photo.~\ 

PORTRAIT OF LADY MEUX. 



STUDY FOR A PORTRAIT OF "BABY LEYLAND. 

From a black and white drawing. 



I 



Of the three portraits which Mr. Whistler painted 
of Mrs. H. B. (afterwards Lady) Meux, the most 
important is the almost regal arrangement which 
represents the lady standing, dressed in evening 
robes of black velvet, and wearing a diamond tiara, 
necklace and bracelet, the rich costume being re- 
lieved from the dark background by a white fur 
cloak which hangs from her shoulders. This mag- 
nificent picture is known to but few of the painter's 
admirers. A better-known portrait (illustrated 
here) is that in which the full-length figure is 
shown in profile, the face only being turned to- 
wards the spectator. She is dressed in pink and 
silver-gray, and wears a large hat, the notes of the 
costume being repeated in the drapery which forms 
the background, and in the carpet on which she 
stands. 

Three full-length male portraits which have many 
characteristics in common may be classed together. 
They all represent men of genius, namely, Sir 
Henry Irving, M.Theodore Duret, the well-known 
critic, and Senor Pablo Sarasate, the violinist. 
The portrait of " Irving as Philip II. of Spain" 
was shown at the first Grosvenor Gallery exhibi- 
tion, in 1877, under the title of " Arrangement in 
Black No. 3." It is easy to understand how the 
artist must have been attracted by the idea of 
painting the great actor in his impersonation of the 

47 



King whose grandson sat so often to Velasquez; 
and the result, though from the period of the cos- 
tume naturally recalling the Spanish painter, is an 
original and powerful picture and a fine portrait. 
It is here illustrated, by permission of Sir Henry 
Irving, and is shown in the original frame, designed 
by the artist. 

M. Theodore Duret is represented in conven- 
tional evening dress, standing in front of a pale pink 
curtain. He carries an opera hat in his right hand 
and over his left arm a pink domino falls in folds 
to the ground. In this picture, although the artist 
was dealing with the definite black and white of a 
man's full dress, he has shown that it was not 
necessary for him to relieve a black figure against 
a dark background, but that he could produce an 
equally successful result with his model posed 
before a curtain of the palest tint. This most 
original and interesting portrait was exhibited at 
the Salon in 1885, and is here reproduced by the 
kindness of M. Duret, for the first time. 
In his portrait of Pablo Sarasate, exhibited at the 
Society of British Artists, 1885, Mr. Whistler was 
again dealing with a man of genius, and again he 
rose to the occasion. The famous violinist stands 
facing the spectator, or rather, as one cannot but 
feel, the audience, for he is in evening dress and 
holds his violin in his hand, being evidently about 
48 




IRVING AS PHILIP II. OF SPAIN. 






PORTRAIT OF STEVIE MANUEL. 



to play. The most noticeable quality in this por- 
trait perhaps is the extreme elegance of Sefior 
Sarasate's figure, and it curiously reminds one of 
Mr. Whistlers own appearance when he stood 
upon the platform of Prince's Hall to deliver the 
"Ten o'Clock" lecture. It has been objected to this 
and some others of Mr. Whistler's portraits that the 
semi-darkness in which the figures are placed is 
unnatural and unnecessary. The artist, however, 
liked to paint them so, and all we are concerned 
with is the fact that, in spite of the obscurity, the 
figures, as he said of Velasquez' portraits, "live 
within their frames and stand upon their legs," 
surrounded by air, and are not mere silhouettes 
painted against the studio wall 
At the same gallery was also shown the charming 
little portrait of Master Stevie Manuel which we 
illustrate. It is a scheme of very delicate grays 
and low-toned whites and exquisitely modelled. 
During his visit to Lyme Regis in 1895, Mr. 
Whistler painted two studies which may be classed 
as portraits — " The Master Smith of Lyme Regis," 
a vigorous half-length study of a blacksmith, a 
man evidently of great physical strength, combined 
with somewhat violent and uncurbed opinions, 
and " The Rose of Lyme Regis," a little girl whose 
sweet serious face looks out questioningly from 
the canvas. Both these pictures are now in the 

e 49 



Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mass. Similar in 
treatment, and dating from about the same period, 
is the study " Lillie in our Alley," which by Mr. 
J. J. Cowan's permission we reproduce. 
A very beautiful but little known portrait is that 
of the late Mr. C. E. Holloway. This picture, 
which was hung under the title of " The Philo- 
sopher" at the exhibition of Holloway 's work at 
Messrs. Goupil's gallery, just before his death in 
1897, is a miniature painting, a few inches only in 
height. Yet the full-length figure appears to stand 
at such a distance behind the frame that it has all 
the effect of a life-size portrait. At the time when 
this picture was exhibited, Mr. Holloway lay dying, 
in a state of great destitution, and it may not be 
out of place to recall the kindness and attention 
which Mr. Whistler showed to his friend and fellow- 
artist throughout his long illness. This little picture 
now belongs to the Comtesse de Beam. 
Mr. Whistler painted in the course of his career 
a large number of portraits which we cannot de- 
scribe here. It must suffice to mention those of 
Mrs. Huth, Mrs. Lewis Jarvis, Lady Archibald 
Campbell, Sir Henry Cole, Mr. Vanderbilt, and 
M. de Montesquiou. 



50 




Foster Bros., Boston, photo. ,] 

THE MASTER SMITH OF LYME REGIS. 




THE LITTLE ROSE OF LYME REGIS. 




BROWN AND GOLD- 



LILLIE IN OUR ALLEY 



CHAPTER V 

NOCTURNES, MARINES AND CHEVALET PIECES 

IT is in his landscapes and sea or river pieces 
that Mr. Whistler's work shows most marked 
divergence from that of other men. For he has 
treated many themes never before attempted — 
subjects which other painters have shirked, or in 
which they have felt no interest. No one before 
has seen the exquisite beauty and poetry of a 
scene from which all garish definition has faded 
away, leaving nothing but the mystery of twilight 
or the blackness of night, relieved perhaps by 
spots of golden light. Or if they have seen it, at 
least no one before him dared to paint such scenes. 
For to Mr. Whistler the distinctness, beloved of 
so many painters, is abhorrent. To him the mist 
is instinct with poetry, and, at the approach of 
night, all that is material, earthly, circumstantial, 
drops away, leaving the very spirit of Nature. In 
his own words, "when the evening mist clothes 
the riverside with poetry, as with a veil, and the 

5i 



poor buildings lose themselves in the dim sky, and 
the tall chimneys become campanili, and the ware- 
houses are palaces in the night, and the whole 
city hangs in the heavens, and fairy-land is before 
us — then . . . Nature, who, for once, has sung in 
tune, sings her exquisite song to the artist alone, 
her son and her master— her son in that he loves 
her, her master in that he knows her." * 
He protests against the generally accepted view 
that " Nature is always right"; asserting, on the 
other hand, that she is usually wrong, "that is to 
say, the condition of things that shall bring about 
the perfection of harmony worthy a picture is rare, 
and not common at all." " Nature," he says, " con- 
tains the elements, in colour and form, of all 
pictures, as the keyboard contains the notes of all 
music. But the artist is born to pick, and choose, 
and group with science, these elements, that the 
result may be beautiful — as the musician gathers 
his notes, and forms his chords, until he bring forth 
from chaos glorious harmony." 2 Thus in his land- 
scapes, as in his figure-pictures, to Mr. Whistler 
the subject is ever of secondary importance ; he 
is not concerned with the detail of what he sees — 
the material fact does not appeal to him. Nature 
provides the excuse, so to say, for a colour 
scheme; the picture becomes a " Harmony in Blue 
1 "Ten o'Clock," p. 15. 2 Ibid., p. 14. 

52 






and Yellow," a " Nocturne in Blue and Silver," a 
" Note in Blue and Opal," and the actual scene 
which provided the motive for the picture loses 
all significance. Yet one may safely assert that 
the painting itself is really absolutely like the sub- 
ject in nature which has inspired it. The artist 
has, however, seen the subject as a whole with a 
principal spot on which the eye has been focussed; 
and from this it has not turned to study in detail 
other unimportant parts which, grouped round 
that centre, have been combined to form the har- 
mony of the whole. 

The word " Nocturne " was suggested to Mr. 
Whistler by Mr. Leyland. " I can't thank you 
too much," the artist wrote, 1 " for the name ' Noc- 
turne ' as the title for my moonlights. You have 
no idea what an irritation it proves to the critics 
and consequent pleasure to me : besides, it is 
really so charming, and does so poetically say all 
I want to say and no more than I wish." 2 

1 Letter to Mr. Leyland (undated), quoted in the "Art 
Journal," August, 1892. 

2 When asked, at the Ruskin trial, the meaning of the wore 
"nocturne," Mr. Whistler said "that a picture was to him 
throughout a problem which he attempted to solve, and he 
made use of any incident or object in nature that would bring 
about a symmetrical result. Among his pictures were some 
night views, and he chose the word ' nocturne ' because it 
generalized and simplified them all" (" Times," November 26th, 
1878). 

53 



The title inevitably suggests a musical comparison 
and it is perfectly true that to look at one of Mr. 
Whistler's nocturnes rouses the same feelings as 
are excited by listening to a Nocturne or a Ballade 
of Chopin — the same mystery and poetry, the 
same pure sense of beauty being common to both. 
The early nocturnes, indeed, both irritated and 
puzzled the critics, and the public, accustomed to 
look in a picture for a literal transcript from nature 
elaborated in every part, were utterly unable to 
understand what they were intended to represent. 
Mr. Whistler told a good story of how, at his 
earliest exhibition in 1874, a lady was completely 
puzzled by one of the nocturnes ; but her child, 
whose understanding had not been warped by 
convention, immediately cried, " Oh mother, look 
at the fireworks ! " 

Looking at nature with an eye supremely sus- 
ceptible to pictorial effect, and a mind strong 
enough to be unhampered by tradition, Mr. Whist- 
ler in fact, in these pictures, revealed the beauty 
and sublimity of the night to all who were capable 
of realizing them. Dr. Muther gives a fine descrip- 
tion of the scene which enabled him to understand 
one of the nocturnes which had puzzled him when 
he first saw it at Munich. " I learnt to understand 
it soon afterwards/' he says, 1 "when I was on the 
1 " History of Modern Painting," vol. iii , p. 646 

54 



way to England. . . . The calm, dark water, through 
which the steamer glided with steady strokes, 
melted into the blue of the sky. All lines vanished. 
A sad veil of grayish-black dusk floated before 
one's eyes. But suddenly to the right the radiance 
of a beacon flared unsteadily, a great yellow disc, 
orbed and beaming like a huge planet. Farther 
back there was another showing fainter, and then 
a third, and then others — a whole alley of lights, 
each one surrounded by a great blue circle of 
atmosphere. And in the far background the host 
of lights in the distant town. . . . And if one looked 
farther down, all might be seen mirrored in the 
water in a thousand gold and silver reflections : a 
harmony of black and gold — a Whistler." 
Many similar experiences will be recalled by those 
who have spent afternoons in the artist's studio, 
which he rarely left while there was any trace of 
daylight remaining. On coming out of the house 
into the dim twilight of the streets, one seemed at 
once to see his pictures again, and to realize in 
the streets or on the river side, the beauty and 
poetry of subjects which one had often passed by 
in the open day with little notice. 
The fascination of the Thames fell upon the artist 
as soon as he took up his abode in Chelsea, and 
in painting, in etching, and in lithography he set 
forth its varying beauty, delighting in the pic- 

55 



turesqueness of the barges and shipping, and the 

quaint charm of the wharfs and warehouses on its 

banks. Indeed, in his love of London and the 

river he can be compared only with Mr. W. E. 

Henley, whose wonderful descriptions of nature 

seem almost like poetical interpretations of some 

of the artist's paintings. Might not Mr. Whistler 

have seen and immortalized on canvas such a 

scene as this ? 

" The smoke ascends 

In a rosy-and-golden haze. The spires 

Shine, and are changed. In the valley 

Shadows rise. The lark sings on. The sun, 

Closing his benediction, 

Sinks and the darkening air 

Thrills with a sense of the triumphing night." 

To artist and poet alike the mystery of the night, 
with the twinkle of lights through the darkness, 
the glamour of the morning mist, the gloom of 
gray London days, appealed more than the bright 
garish sunlight, and both were interested in atmo- 
sphere and colour rather than in definite form. 
" The Thames in Ice," which is illustrated here, 
is one of the earliest of Mr. Whistler's pictures, 
having been exhibited at the Academy in 1862, 
under the title of " The Twenty-fifth of December, 
1 860, on the Thames." It represents a scene which 
would not have appealed at that time, in all prob- 
ability, to any other painter in England. The dark 

56 




T. R. Annan and Sons photo.] 



THE THAMES IN ICE. 



hulk of the brig stands out against the snow and 
ice on the river, and over the whole scene hangs 
the gloom of a London winter's day. This picture 
differs from the majority of Mr. Whistler's land- 
scapes in the tremendous vigour and force with 
which it is painted. The same qualities are notice- 
able in "The Last of Old Westminster," which 
represents the final demolition of the old bridge 
and the opening of the new. The picture is full of 
detail, and the rough brushwork seems to har- 
monize with the scene of strenuous labour. This 
picture was painted in 1862 and hung at the 
Academy next year. Mr. Whistler painted the ice 
on the Thames again in a picture entitled " Chelsea 
in Ice." Here the river is empty save for one tug 
which is heading down the river in the channel left 
in the ice, while some figures are leaning over the 
wall of the embankment in the foreground. 
A great contrast to these pictures is presented 
by the view of " Old Battersea Bridge" which 
was exhibited at the Academy in 1865, and is now 
in the possession of Mr. Edmund Davis. It is 
very highly finished, no brushwork being visible. 
In the foreground is a group of watermen round 
a boat, while out in the river is a barge loaded 
with oil-barrels. To the left the bridge, on which 
are some carts and foot-passengers, rises in a long 
curve across the river, on the further side of which 

57 



the buildings fade away into the distance, the 
Crystal Palace being visible on the horizon. The 
picture is very quiet in colour, the gray-green 
river, the brown bridge, and the red roofs of some 
of the buildings on the Surrey side giving the 
prevailing notes. 

Here, as in all Mr. Whistlers landscapes, the 
sense of atmosphere is one of the first things which 
strikes the spectator. In all his paintings one 
feels as though one were looking at the canvas in 
its frame as through a window, and the scene falls 
back behind it with an incomparable suggestion 
of space. In some of his smallest pictures this 
effect of space is even more noticeable than in 
his largest canvases, the scale being reduced, and 
the scene seeming to fall back to the natural 
distance. In this painting of atmosphere it is safe 
to say that Mr. Whistler has never been ap- 
proached. 

The picture entitled " Pink and Gray — Chelsea " 
is another good example of his early manner. It is 
one of the many paintings representing the reach 
of the river opposite the artist's house in Lindsay 
Row, from one of the windows of which it was 
painted. Though the figures are in mid-Victorian 
costume, the treatment is strongly reminiscent of 
Hiroshige. Indeed, the statement made at the 
beginning of this chapter, that no one before had 

53 




PINK AND GRAY — CHELSEA. 



attempted many of the effects which Mr. Whistler 
has painted with such success, should have been 
qualified by the exception of the great Japanese 
artist. The influence of Hiroshige is unmistak- 
able in the nocturnes. Take, for instance, the 
famous " Nocturne in Blue and Silver— Old Bat- 
tersea Bridge." The black bridge silhouetted in 
the foreground, the brilliant lights of the falling 
rockets, emphasizing the infinite depth of the sky 
behind, the whole picture flooded with the pale 
bright moonlight, form just such a scene as Hiro- 
shige might have painted. And in the treatment, 
individual and personal as Mr. Whistler's is, the 
subtle gradations of colour, the massing of light 
and shade, and the avoidance of all detail which 
might detract from the decorative simplicity of 
the picture, are all qualities which may frequently 
be found in Hiroshige's colour-prints. 
Such effects of artificial light have always appealed 
strongly to Mr. Whistler, and in " The Falling 
Rocket," " The Fire- Wheel," " Cremorne Lights," 
and many another nocturne, he has created ex- 
quisite poems in colour, before which the spectator 
can only stand in silent admiration, wondering at 
" the amazing invention which has put form and 
colour into such perfect harmony that exquisite- 
ness is the result." 1 " The Fire- Wheel," which 
1 "Ten o'Clock," p. 18. 

59 



was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1883, 
and is now in the possession of Mr. Studd, is a 
typical example. It represents a scene in Cremorne 
Gardens at night, with groups of people watching 
a display of fireworks. The circle of spectators in 
shadow is broken in the centre of the picture, and 
through the gap is seen the inner ring with figures 
illumined by the light of the great Catherine wheel 
on the right. Lights twinkle among the trees which 
rise up on the left, while the spent sparks of an 
expiring rocket fall slowly through the darkness. 
Mr. Studd also owns a very beautiful nocturne 
entitled " Chelsea Reach." It is a harmony in opal, 
representing a bright moonlight night on the river, 
whose wide expanse, unbroken by shipping of any 
kind, stretches away into the distance. Spots of 
golden light are visible along the banks and are 
reflected in the still water, and the whole scene is 
bathed in luminous air. A very similar and perhaps 
even more important picture is the " Nocturne in 
Blue and Silver, No. 1," which, by the kindness of 
Mrs. F. R. Leyland, we are able to reproduce. It 
represents a moonlight scene on the Thames, look- 
ing up Battersea Reach, and was one of the pictures 
exhibited at the first Grosvenor Gallery exhibition 
in 1877, and afterwards brought into court by the 
artist in the Ruskin trial. 

Another Chelsea nocturne is the " harmony in gray 
60 



and gold" to which Mr. Whistler referred in the 
quotation given on page 20. This picture, which 
is entitled "Chelsea — Snow," represents an 
ordinary London snow-scene at night. The wide 
street, thickly covered with snow, is entirely empty 
save for one black figure, and the scene is illumin- 
ated by the brilliant lights from the tavern windows. 
It is evident that reproductions in black and 
white can convey no adequate impression of the 
beauty of such pictures as these. The large noc- 
turne study of Cremorne Gardens, however, which 
we illustrate, has so much life in it that it might 
almost be classed among the figure-subjects, and 
even a monochrome reproduction is not without 
value. The picture contains many figures, full of 
vitality, gliding about the gardens in the twilight 
beneath the trees, in which twinkle coloured lights. 
In the background the river forms a band of light 
across the picture beyond the dark grass. There 
is a portrait-sketch of the master himself sitting 
under the tree on the right. The whole is very 
beautiful in low-toned colours. 
Of another of the nocturnes Mr. Walter Sickert 
has given so beautiful and poetical a description 
that we cannot forbear to quote it : l " The 
1 Nocturne in Blue and Silver — Bognor' can 
never be surpassed. The blue of the summer sea, 
1 "Whistler To-day," " Fortnightly Review," April, 1892. 

61 



growing black with intensity at the horizon, the 
silent stars, the ghostly wreaths of cloud trailing 
in the watery sky. Four little boats hover like 
great moths and melt their phantom sails in 
a dusky sea. Three show lights that glimmer on 
the water. Though it is night, it is light enough 
to see the white foam turned over by the bows 
of the two nearer boats. That on the far right 
is going about under your very eyes, leaving 
a white track in the wondrous water. The 
waves creep in while they seem not to move, ex- 
cept where they curl and break and tumble at 
your feet on a dusky shore. You are conscious at 
the water's edge of shadowy figures going about 
their mysterious business with the night. All 
these things and a million-fold more are expressed 
in this immortal canvas, with a power and a ten- 
derness that I have never seen elsewhere. The 
whole soul of the universe is in the picture, the 
whole spirit of beauty. It is an example and a 
summary of all art. It is an act of divine creation. 
The man that created it is thereby alone immortal 
a thousand times over." 

At Valparaiso Mr. Whistler painted several pic- 
tures, " The Ocean," the " Crepuscule in Flesh- 
colour and Green," which represents the harbour 
seen from a height, full of shipping and lit by the 
afterglow of the sunset, and the " Nocturne in 
62 




Goupil and Co. photo.} 

NOCTURNE IN BLUE AND GOLD — VALPARAISO. 






&. 




Blue and Gold," now in the possession of Mr. 
McCulloch, by whose permission it is illustrated 
here. In this a number of ships are seen across the 
harbour, in which their lights, as well as their hulls 
and rigging, are reflected. Behind is a line of low 
hills, and in the foreground is a landing-stage, on 
which a crowd of figures is dimly seen in the twi- 
light. Of this picture a very interesting unfinished 
study exists. It was evidently painted earlier in 
the day than the finished picture, and no doubt 
while painting it Mr. Whistler observed the night 
effect, and realized how much more picturesque the 
scene became with the golden lights twinkling on 
board the ships in the sapphire blue of the twi- 
light. The composition of the two pictures is almost 
identical, and in both there is the same delightful 
incident of the distant vessel, slowly sailing past, 
so perfectly suggested that it is difficult to believe 
it is not actually moving. 

It must not, however, be supposed that Mr. Whist- 
ler painted nothing but nocturnes or gray days. 
On the contrary, he never shirked brilliance of 
effect and full sunlight, when it appealed to him, 
as for instance in " The Blue Wave — Biarritz. " 
And in recent years he has exhibited many small 
paintings, such as "The Sun Cloud" and "The 
Angry Sea," which we illustrate, where he treats 
the full broad light of day with complete definition 

63 



of all those details which he wishes us to see with 
him ; yet all lies so far behind the window of the 
frame and is so bathed in air that we seem to feel 
the real spirit of nature instead of a mere photo- 
graphic record. 

" The Little Sweet-Stuff Shop " is perhaps the 
best example of many tiny panels which he de- 
lighted to paint in his later years. In a little 
window in a cottage, serving the purpose of a 
shop, are displayed an assortment of bottles of 
sweets, oranges and other fruits to tempt the 
children grouped around its fascinating luxuries. 
The minute care with which these seemingly 
trivial matters are rendered is beyond praise. " The 
Nocturne in Brown and Gold — Chelsea Rags/' is 
a night version of a very similar subject. This is 
illustrated here by permission of Mr. J. J. Cowan, 
to whom also belong the charming little picture of 
" Dieppe — Blue and Silver" and "The Cure's 
Little Class," an interesting study of the interior 
of a quaint old church at Honfleur. 



6 4 




Li 



/fisiiiiii 




DIEPPE — BLUE AND SILVER. 



CHAPTER VI 

ETCHINGS 

IN etching Mr. Whistler has always been 
admitted, even from the first, as a master. 
During his studies in Paris he was associated with 
such men as Bracquemond and Legros, and his 
relationship to Sir Seymour Haden must also have 
helped to attract him towards those exquisite 
qualities which etching or drypoint on copper 
alone can give. If we make a careful comparison 
of any fairly good collection of Mr. Whistler's 
plates with those of any other great etcher, it will 
be seen that in his etchings of buildings, towns, 
rivers, and sea-pieces, and even in his portraits, 
Rembrandt is his only rival. He is more pictorial 
and painter-like in treatment than Meryon, great 
as the latter was in architecture. Of course Rem- 
brandt is supreme, and always will remain so, in 
his great figure-subjects, and his portraits are un- 
surpassed, though there are single figures and por- 
traits by Mr. Whistler which can hang beside them 
and live, having qualities all their own. But in the 

F 65 



other subjects, which form by far the greater bulk 
of the later master's work, the astonishing variety 
and exquisite beauty of the pictures he has etched, 
the marvellous certainty of line enabling him to 
give the most brilliant results with the fewest 
possible touches, and withal the feeling of colour 
which is ever present in his slightest black-and- 
white work, place his etchings quite on a pinnacle 
by themselves, even beyond Rembrandt's treat- 
ment of similar themes. 

" In Art," Mr. Whistler has said, 1 " it is criminal 
to go beyond the means used in its exercise/' and 
"the space to be covered should always be in 
proper relation to the means used for covering 
it." It follows that in etching, "the means used 
being the finest possible point, the space to be 
covered should be small in proportion. All at- 
tempts to overstep the limits insisted on by such 
proportions are inartistic thoroughly, and tend to 
reveal the paucity of the means used, instead of 
concealing the same, as required by art in its refine- 
ment. The huge plate, therefore, is an offence — 
its undertaking an unbecoming display of deter- 
mination and ignorance — its accomplishment a 
triumph of unthinking earnestness and uncon- 
trolled energy." 
Acting, as ever, up to his artistic principles, 

1 " Gentle Art of Making Enemies," p. 76. 
66 



Mr. Whistler produced in the course of his career 
a series of etchings and drypoints which, though 
they display a consummate mastery of technique, 
never overstep in the slightest degree the " pro- 
prieties " of their medium. The power of inter- 
preting the spirit of a scene, rather than the actual 
facts, is as apparent in his etchings as in his paint- 
ings, and he is able to create the effect of space and 
atmosphere with the needle as certainly as with 
the brush. 

The etchings display a power of observation which 
nothing that is picturesque can escape, combined 
with a faculty of selection which takes all that it 
wants, and absolutely ignores everything else. 
To these qualities, which enable the artist to find 
material for his plates in what would appear to 
ordinary observers most unpromising subjects, 
must be added a feeling for line, a freedom and 
precision of handling, and an absolute command 
over the medium, such as no etcher since Rem- 
brandt has possessed in equal measure. 
Mr. Whistler's earliest etching is said to have 
been made on one of the maps which he should 
have been engraving for the United States Coast 
Survey; but his first published plates are the series 
of thirteen known as the " Little French Set," 
which appeared in 1858. Of these the " Street at 
Saverne" is interesting as being, perhaps, Mr. 

67 



Whistlers first nocturne; and " La Marchande de 
Moutarde" and " The Kitchen/' which was after- 
wards retouched and issued by the Fine Art 
Society in 1885, have very beautiful chiaroscuro 
effects. But the series as a whole has no great 
charm, though displaying considerable technical 
skill. A fine plate executed during the same period 
is " The Rag-Gatherers" — a squalid interior with 
two figures at the back, very suggestive and 
powerful in effect. Many figure-subjects followed, 
of which " Annie Seated," one of the most beauti- 
ful of the many portraits of Miss Annie Haden, 
and " Bibi Lalouette," a charming study of a boy 
sitting on a sloping bank, may be specially men- 
tioned. A marvellous little still-life study, entitled 
" The Wine-Glass," also done at this time, may 
be compared with Rembrandt's " Shell." 
After these came the famous " Thames Set," con- 
sisting of sixteen etchings and drypoints, most of 
which were exhibited at the Royal Academy be- 
tween 1859 and 1863, though they were not issued 
publicly until 1871. The Thames offered Mr. 
Whistler subjects for his needle in endless variety. 
He revelled in the lines of the barges, the rows 
of warehouses forming a background to the tangle 
of shipping, and the effects of light and shade, the 
beauty of which we can all see now that he has 
taught us, but which forty years ago no one else, 
68 







O fe 

3 
u 



except perhaps M. J. Tissot, had thought worthy 
of recording. 

In the Thames etchings a very definite line is 
used, and in many of the prints, such as " West- 
minster Bridge" and "Thames Police," the effect 
is hard and dry in comparison with the later etch- 
ings. There is in most of them a very considerable 
elaboration of detail ; in the " Rotherhithe," for 
instance, which is here reproduced, 1 every brick in 
the building on the right is carefully drawn, in order 
to produce the desired effect of colour. This plate 
is one of the strongest and most vigorous of the 
series. Two bargees are sitting in the foreground 
smoking long clay pipes, their faces being very 
highly finished. On the left is a vessel with masts 
and rigging, also drawn most elaborately, and in 
the distance a long row of warehouses lines the 
curve of the river, which is full of shipping. A 
huge wooden structure forms a kind of frame to 
the whole picture. Equally rich in effect is " The 
Lime-Burner," in which a distant glimpse of the 
river is seen through a confused tangle of timber 
roofs and buildings, while the lime-burner, sur- 
rounded by ladders, a sieve and a barrel, stands 
in the middle of the plate against a white wall. 
Both of these etchings present very beautiful effects 

1 It is impossible in small reproductions to convey any idea 
of the quality of these etchings. 

6 9 



of light and shade. One of the best known of the 
Thames series is the " Black Lion Wharf," here 
illustrated. It is a typical scene on the river — or 
rather the river as it was in 1859 — showing a 
lighterman in his barge in the foreground, and 
behind, across the river, a row of warehouses and 
dwelling-houses. As in " The Pool/' " Thames 
Police," " Thames Warehouses from the Tunnel 
Pier," " Eagle Wharf," and others of the series, 
the buildings are very carefully and elaborately 
drawn, yet the extraordinary amount of detail does 
not detract from the breadth of the impression, 
nor suggest that any pictorial effect has been sacri- 
ficed. In most of these prints the background is 
filled with a medley of masts and shipping, but 
in " Vauxhall Bridge," a beautiful etching done at 
this time but not included in the Thames series, 
the general order is reversed ; a barge with a con- 
fused mass of sails and rigging entirely fills the 
foreground, while, behind, the river is spanned by 
the bridge, through the arches of which a distant 
line of buildings is visible. 

Before leaving the Thames etchings mention 
must be made of two plates which distinguish 
themselves from the rest by their amazing delicacy, 
namely, those known as " Old Hungerford Bridge" 
and " Cadogan Pier." In the former the line of 
the old suspension bridge extends right across the 
70 




ROTHERHITHE. 
From an etching. 



picture, while a number of steamers and other 
craft are lying in the foreground. The reflections 
in the water are exquisite, and in the far distance 
the buildings down the river are indicated with 
great subtlety of touch. " Cadogan Pier," which 
may be compared with the lithograph entitled 
" Early Morning," is a poetical etching of the river 
off Battersea, in the morning mist, when "a com- 
mon grayness silvers everything." 
Besides the sixteen plates included in the Thames 
series, Mr. Whistler executed during the next 
twenty years many more etchings of the river. 
Among these the most important are the ''Billings- 
gate" (afterwards published in the "Portfolio"), 
" Chelsea Wharf," the " Little Limehouse," " Bat- 
tersea — Dawn," " The Large Pool," and two large 
etchings of Old Battersea Bridge and Old Putney 
Bridge. 

The majority of the etchings or drypoints exe- 
cuted during this period, however, were figure- 
subjects — portraits and studies from the model. 
The portraits display the same penetrating ob- 
servation, the same power of selection, the same 
grace of line, and the same sureness of touch 
which characterize the later portraits drawn on 
the stone. The "Becquet" (also called "The 
Fiddler"), a dreamy portrait of a young man 
holding a violoncello between his legs, the 

7i 



" Astruc," a fine vigorous head of a man with an 
expectant expression, the beautiful portrait of him- 
self in a broad hat, with bushy hair, and the ex- 
quisitely drawn " Riault the Engraver " are the 
finest of the men's portraits ; while the " Finette," 
a lady in a black velvet dress and huge crinoline, 
standing at a window through which is seen a dis- 
tant view of Paris, and the " Annie Haden " show 
once more how the artist may triumph over the 
accidental ugliness of dress. Of all the portraits, 
however, that entitled " Weary," a beautiful study 
of a girl lying back in a chair, every line express- 
ing fatigue, and the portrait of Florence Leyland, 
with its perfect grace of line and pose, are perhaps 
the most completely satisfying. 
The next published set was the first series of 
Venice etchings, exhibited by the Fine Art Society 
after Mr. Whistler's return from Venice at the end 
of 1880, and published by them at fifty guineas 
for the set of twelve. A second series of twenty- 
six etchings — of which twenty-one were Venetian 
subjects — was exhibited and published by Messrs. 
Dowdeswell in 1886. 

In general, the Venice etchings differ from the 
earlier Thames series by a greater softness and 
richness of effect. As a rule, much less detail is 
given, but the plates possess far more colour and 
atmosphere. The later impressions of many of the 
72 




WEARY. 
From an etching. 



Venice series differ from the earlier, as the artist 
in printing them at first painted the reflections of 
the buildings in the water with the printing ink 
on the plate, but afterwards obtained these effects 
with drypoint. 

That Mr. Whistler did not need the smoke and 
mist of London to inspire him is most abundantly 
shown by these Venice plates. Here he had to 
deal with brilliant clear atmosphere, yet he could 
give us just as much effect of space as he could in 
a silvery Thames nocturne. We may specially 
mention the " Little Venice," an astonishingly 
brilliant etching, in which the city is seen across 
the lagoons from a distant island, spread out along 
the horizon in a thin line. The water in the fore- 
ground is broken only by a few of the tall posts 
used by the gondolas. It may be noted that this 
plate was bitten once only — a remarkable proof of 
his technical skill. The same amazing effect of 
distance is produced in many others of the Venice 
etchings — such as "The Little Lagoon," " San 
Giorgio," the " Upright Venice," and the "Long 
Venice." 

Much richer in effect, and with more elaboration of 
detail than is usual in this series, is " The Doorway," 
a beautiful view of what has once been a palace. 
The huge doorway with three arches faces us, 
with steps leading to the water. Some figures are 

73 



seen in the opening and, within, chairs are hang- 
ing from the roof. The fine architecture of the 
exterior, with the rich tracery of the windows, is 
very beautifully indicated, and the water in the 
foreground is wonderfully transparent. Somewhat 
similar and equally fine are "The Balcony " and 
"The Palaces" and "The Two Doorways/' the 
four prints showing superb draughtsmanship and 
very effective contrasts of light and shade. In 
" The Furnace," a nocturne in which through a 
square opening in a wall at the side of a canal is 
seen an interior brilliantly lighted by a furnace, 
the effect of chiaroscuro is still more exquisite. 
It is impossible to speak of more than a few of 
the Venice series, and where all reach so high a 
pitch of excellence it is difficult to make any satis- 
factory selection. But mention must be made of 
" The Traghetto " — the ferry seen through a dark 
archway, while in front a group of men are sitting 
at a cafe, and a tree with falling leaves shows 
white against the darkness behind ; the " Quiet 
Canal," a beautiful view of a canal curving be- 
tween two rows of buildings, with very delicate 
reflections in the water; "The Piazzetta," the 
Square of St. Mark's in full sunlight, crowded with 
figures; and "Salute — Dawn," a marvellous dry- 
point which shows the sun rising over a group of 
buildings and domes, across a wide expanse of 

74 







M 5 ^ 



water. The qualities of this plate, which has but 
the slightest drypoint skeleton, depend upon the 
most wonderful printing, each impression being 
really a painting by Mr. Whistler upon the copper. 
Speaking of the Venice etchings, Mr. Wedmore, 
in the introduction to his " Catalogue," confesses 
that " some of us thought at first they were not 
satisfactory, because they did not record the Venice 
which the cultivated tourist, with his guide-books 
and his volumes of Ruskin, goes out from London 
to see. . . . The architecture of Venice had im- 
pressed us, perhaps, so profoundly that it was not 
easy in a moment to realize that here was a great 
artist whose work it had not been permitted to 
dominate. The Past and its record were not his 
business in Venice. For him, the lines of the 
steamboat, the lines of the fishing-tackle, the 
shadow under the squalid archway, the wayward 
vine of the garden, had been as fascinating, as en- 
gaging, as worthy of chronicle, as the Domes of 
St. Mark's." Mr. Wedmore goes on to point out, 
what is indeed one of the first things which strike 
the student of Mr. Whistler's work at the present 
day, that the artist had from the first cut himself 
adrift from literary and historical associations. 
" His subject was what he saw, or what he decided 
to see, and not something that he had heard about 
it. He had dispensed from the beginning with 

75 



those aids to the provocation of interest which ap- 
peal most strongly to the world — to the person of 
sentiment, to the literary lady, to the man in the 
street. We were to be interested — if we were in- 
terested at all — in the happy accidents of line and 
light he had perceived, in his dexterous record, in 
his scientific adaptation." At the present time 
there is far greater appreciation of the beauty of 
line and light, apart from the actual subject, whether 
of a painting or an etching, than there was twenty 
years ago ; and to this healthy education of public 
taste the work and the writings of Mr. Whistler 
have contributed perhaps more than anything else. 
There is certainly no lack of appreciation of the 
Venice etchings now, though many collectors still 
prefer the earlier Thames series. 
Of later etchings we may mention a Jubilee set 
done during the review of the Fleet at Spithead 
in 1887 and the Amsterdam series. Some of the 
latter are of great importance, especially l< Zaan- 
dam," a view of a canal with flat-bottomed boats, 
and behind a great plain with windmills ; two noc- 
turnes, entitled " Dance House " and " Balcony, 
Amsterdam"; and above all the wonderful "Long 
House, Dyers, Amsterdam." This print represents 
a line of outbuildings on the edge of a canal, with 
figures here and there, and the houses rising up 
behind. A large amount of detail is introduced, 
76 



and the reflections in the water are very brilliant. 
The whole is very soft and full of atmosphere, and 
the plate must rank with the finest of modern 
etchings. We understand that Mr. Whistler has 
left yet another series of French plates, mostly 
subjects in Brittany and Paris, which had been 
shown to but few people at the time of his death. 



77 



CHAPTER VII 

LITHOGRAPHS 

LITHOGRAPHY is the youngest of the Arts. 
Indeed the centenary of Senefelder's inven- 
tion almost coincided with Mr. Whistler's own 
exhibition in the Fine Art Society's Galleries in 
1895. Hence, when he began to use this medium, 
there was no very long list of distinguished artists 
whose work on the stone might have crystallized 
its possibilities and demonstrated its limitations. 
Daumier and Gavarni, it is true, had made many 
lithographs. But the former used it merely as the 
readiest means of producing his political cartoons, 
rarely attempting to obtain the finer results which 
it offers to those who understand it. Gavarni, on 
the other hand, seemed to take delight in utilizing 
to the utmost of his ability its peculiar effects both 
with point and stump. In more recent years M. 
Fantin-Latour adopted the process, and has made 
a great number of important prints in his own de- 
lightful manner. But it remained for Mr. Whistler 

7 8 




5 -a 



to show all the possibilities of lithography, and to 
carry it to a pitch undreamed of before. 
It was in 1878 that Mr. Thomas Way first drew 
his attention to the art, and it at once appealed to 
him as a means whereby he could express himself 
in the most direct manner, either with extreme 
delicacy or with great force. It is certain that 
he could not in any other medium have created 
the marvellously tender " Early Morning," or 
the solemn " Nocturne," " The Thames," " The 
Forge," and " The Smith " of the Passage du 
Dragon, with their mysterious depths, or the 
beautiful drawing of " St. Giles in the Fields," with 
its perfect suggestion of the colour of the stone- 
work, bleached by the rain of many years. He has 
worked on the stone itself, or on transfer paper, as 
he felt that the subject required. If he wished to 
draw direct on the stone, e.g. in some of the river 
subjects, the weight and inconvenience never pre- 
vented him from taking stones out with him, while 
at other times he worked in his studio from the 
model, or, as in the " Nocturne," relied entirely on 
his memory. The larger number of his litho- 
graphs, it is true, were begun on various sorts of 
transfer paper, but in many cases he afterwards 
touched and retouched them, to such an extent 
that in the perfect proof which eventually resulted, 
the preliminary work on paper was only of secondary 

79 



importance compared with the work done direct 
on the stone. This is notably the case with the 
drawings already mentioned of " The Forge," and 
" The Smith" of the Passage du Dragon, some of 
the Lyme Regis forge subjects and many of the 
portraits. One peculiar and amazing characteristic 
of Mr. Whistler in his treatment of lithography 
arose, no doubt, out of his vast experience as a 
printer of his own etchings. He always saw — be- 
yond the actual drawing in wash or chalk — the 
printed proof at which he was aiming ; an apparent 
failure in the first proof did not dishearten him, 
but by touching and retouching he worked on the 
stone until he obtained the effect he wanted — 
straining indeed the ability of his printer to the 
utmost, but never deceived in the ultimate ca- 
pacity of lithography to give him all he asked for. 

The earliest lithographs, after one or two figure 
studies, were a series of river subjects in lithotint, 
and it is remarkable that new as the medium was 
to Mr. Whistler, these prints — " Limehouse," 
" Nocturne," " Early Morning," and " The Toilet" 
— to which may be added " The Broad Bridge," 
and "The Tall Bridge," in which wash was com- 
bined with chalk outline — are not only most ex- 
quisite works of art in themselves, but masterpieces 
from the technical point of view. They may, in- 
80 




THE TALL BRIDGE. 
From a lithograph. 



deed, be said to have marked an epoch in the 
history of the art, for though Hulmandel had per- 
fected a process of drawing in wash in the early 
part of the last century, the secret had died with 
him, and it was only after many years of experi- 
ment that Mr. Way succeeded in discovering a 
satisfactory process of wash- lithography. Nash 
and Cattermole had, it is true, used wash, but they 
had produced nothing at all comparable with these 
drawings by Mr. Whistler, which must indeed 
have come as a revelation to other lithographers, 
while by the ordinary public they were ignored or 
passed by as uninteresting puzzles. It was at first 
intended to issue a limited number of proofs to 
subscribers at intervals, as new prints should be 
ready, but the response was so limited that not 
more than half a dozen copies each of the " Lime- 
house" and" Nocturne" were so published. 1 Later, 
in 1887, Mr. Whistler issued a portfolio of six 
lithographs under the title of " Notes," but the in- 
terest taken in the medium was still so slight, and 
so unintelligent, that the critic of the " Magazine 
of Art " described them as " delightful sketches in 

1 The other four prints mentioned were produced for a 
magazine called " Piccadilly," of which Mr. Theodore Watts- 
Dunton was editor. Unfortunately " Piccadilly " soon finished 
its short career, and only "The Toilet" and "The Broad 
Bridge " appeared in its pages. 

G 8l 



Indian ink and crayon — interesting as correct 
sketches, but unworthy the glories of facsimile re- 
production. " 

These early prints show that Mr. Whistler had 
already seen the possibilities of the medium in 
which he was working, and been able to turn them 
to magnificent effect. They are quite unlike in 
handling. The " Limehouse " shows a group of 
old houses, surrounded by ships and barges, the 
whole being very strong in colour, and worked 
with broad touches. The " Nocturne " — a scene on 
the river at Battersea — is in pure wash, printed 
on blue-gray paper. In the foreground is a barge 
with a man standing in it, and behind, across the 
river, a long line of buildings, broken by towers 
and chimneys. Some steamers lie in the middle 
of the river, and their lights are reflected in the 
water. The whole gives that sense of sombre 
mystery and poetry which one always associates 
with the river at night. In the " Early Morning" 
the same buildings appear on the right, half-veiled 
in the morning mist, while in the distance is seen 
the dim line of the bridge, through which flows 

The ancient River, singing as he goes, 
New-mailed in morning, to the ancient Sea. 

The effect is of the utmost delicacy and beauty, 
and the " atmosphere " of the picture is truly 
82 



•"..-' 



^§ 







THE TOILET. 
From a lithograph. 



amazing. This drawing was made for " Piccadilly," 
but never published, and only a few impressions 
exist. The same is the case with " The Tall 
Bridge/' a most picturesque drawing of old Bat- 
tersea Bridge. Two of the great wooden piers are 
shown, seen from the level of the river, and in the 
distance, between the piers, is a low line of build- 
ings with chimneys. The water in the foreground 
in which the piers are reflected is wonderfully 
transparent, and the whole effect is one of great 
size and space. 

All these drawings were made in 1878, and a few 
were added next year, but after that there was a 
long break, and it was not until 1887 that Mr. 
Whistler again turned to lithography. During the 
next ten years he produced about a hundred and 
twenty prints, which stand quite alone in the his- 
tory of art, and have served to raise lithography 
from the low commercial level to which it had 
fallen, and to show for the first time the infinite 
possibilities of which the medium is capable. They 
display great variety, both in subject and treat- 
ment and include portraits, studies from the 
model, both nude and draped, picturesque bits of 
London streets and buildings, scenes in Paris and 
Brittany, garden scenes, smithies and forges, 
drawings in stump, line and wash, occasionally 
even in colour. The figure studies are of excep- 

83 



tional interest, and many of them are entirely 
classical in feeling. "The Little Nude Model 
Reading" may be especially mentioned, as its 
extreme delicacy and refinement, and its beauty 
of line, render it one of the most charming of all 
Mr. Whistler's prints. " By his drawing of the 
nude," says Mrs. Pennell, 1 "the measure of an 
artist's capacity — or incapacity — may be judged. 
By it he stands convicted of perfection or of failure 
as it may be and too often is. There is nothing 
more difficult in art than to draw the figure, and 
the difficulty is increased a hundredfold when the 
medium is as inexorable as the lithographic chalk. 
These studies have been likened more than once 
to the work of Tanagra; and justly, for theirs is 
the same flawless daintiness, the same purity of 
pose, the same harmony of line, the same grace of 
colour. And slight as they may seem to the casual 
amateur, in them you have the firm foundation, the 
groundwork as it were, of the art that bears as its 
perfect flower the harmonies on the Thames, and 
in the Luxembourg gardens, the incomparable 
portraits." 

Mr. Whistler's portraits on stone have, as the 
same critic has observed, the subtlety and elegance 
and dignity of his portraits on canvas. "The 

1 " The Master of the Lithograph " (" Scribner's Magazine," 
March, 1897). 

84 




■ r i 



Winged Hat," a seated figure of a lady, published 
in " The Whirlwind," with its companion which 
appeared in "The Studio" under the title of 
"Gants de Suede," " La Belle Dame Endormie," 
" The Doctor," a portrait of Dr. W. Whistler, the 
artist's brother, the portraits of Stephane Mallarme 
and Mr. Joseph Pennell, and many others, are full 
of colour and life, and display a wonderful firmness 
and surety of touch, combined with the distinction 
of style which is never absent from the artist's 
work. 

It is not our purpose to give a complete list of the 
lithographs, though it is difficult to avoid dwelling 
on each and all of the prints, so varied are they in 
manner and charm. In each the subject has sug- 
gested its own treatment, as it should do to every 
artist — yet of how few men's work can this be said ! 
The group of smaller London subjects, dating from 
1 887- 1 890 — the two drawings at St. Bartholomew's 
and those of Chelsea shops and houses — and the 
figure subjects of this date, were characterized by 
a certain clearness and firmness of line, extremely 
delicate in colour, due, perhaps, in a measure, to 
the character of the transfer paper which Mr. 
Whistler was then using. When he went to Brit- 
tany, though using the same paper, he began to 
employ the stump in addition to the simple chalk 
point, on which he had previously relied when 

85 



working on paper. The result was an immediate 
broadening of effect, the quality given by the 
stumping being almost like brush-work. " The 
Canal — Vitre," with its soft cloudy sky and liquid 
water was the first note in this development, which 
culminated in the astounding series of the Luxem- 
bourg Gardens, the " Draped Figure Seated," and 
the " Nude Model Reclining." In these drawings 
there is much greater strength of colour and force 
than in the earlier London series. The master, 
however, was not yet satisfied, but continued to 
experiment with his materials. In " The Terrace, 
Luxembourg," " The Laundress," and other draw- 
ings, we find him again using the simple chalk, but 
with a softer and fuller-toned line, and he also 
tried other transfer papers, which enabled him to 
obtain, in the " Rue Furstenburg," " La Robe 
Rouge," and " The Sisters," a line of so soft and 
rich a quality that it might almost have been drawn 
with the stump throughout. These two methods 
were again combined in " The Forge " and " The 
Smith " of the Passage du Dragon already men- 
tioned. 

In 1895 he was at Lyme Regis, where the quaint 
windows and doorways of the old town, with groups 
of children and picturesque forges inspired a series 
of most interesting prints — notably " The Smith's 
Yard," in which he has drawn a couple of cart-horses 
86 



as perfectly as any animal specialist has ever done. 
Next year came a group of portraits of Mr. Pen- 
nell, one of Mrs. Pennell, and one of Mr. Thomas 
Way by firelight — all excellent as likenesses, but 
most unconventional in effect. There were also 
several other portraits at this time — the best 
known being the " Little Evelyn." In the same 
year, 1896, he was staying at the Savoy Hotel 
during Mrs. Whistler's illness, and here — mostly 
from its windows — he drew what is perhaps his 
finest group of lithographs. To mention three 
only of the eight: the " Little London," a view of 
the broad river with the curving sweep of the Em- 
bankment and its buildings culminating in the 
Dome of St. Paul's is a drawing small indeed in the 
inches covered, but suggesting the great city in a 
manner which can only be described as vast in its 
truth of effect. In great contrast to this delicate 
and suggestive print is that technical masterpiece 
of lithography, the great wash drawing entitled 
"The Thames." Here the buildings and Shot 
Tower on the Surrey side are represented seen from 
a great height, with the river sweeping past full 
of barges, and below in the foreground the Em- 
bankment, with many figures and vehicles seen 
through the tracery of the branches of the trees in 
the gardens. So complete and full in tone and 
detail is this lithograph that it is not to be won- 

27 



dered at that Mr. Whistler was awarded the gold 
medal at the Paris Exhibition in 1899, where it 
was hung with a group of his etchings. But if 
these two prints, so different in treatment, com- 
mand our admiration, what words can describe the 
beauty of " The Siesta," a study — how tender ! — 
of the artist's wife lying on a couch with an open 
book on her knees, all white save the rich dark 
hair? In the pathos of the subject and the delicacy 
of the drawing it equals — it cannot surpass — the 
" Mother's Portrait." 

To these succeeded the " St. Anne's, Soho," and 
" St. Giles in the Fields," the beginnings of a pro- 
jected series of London churches which, had it 
been continued, would have struck a new note in 
his art, and a portrait sketch of Mr. W. E. Henley, 
the poet who has immortalized the beauty of 
London in verse as Mr. Whistler has on canvas, 
and whose death preceded that of the artist by a 
few days only. With these and one or two more 
the chapter is closed, and lithography mourns her 
master. 



83 



CHAPTER VIII 

PASTELS, WATER COLOURS AND DECORATIVE WORK 

NOTHING strikes the student of Mr. Whist- 
ler's work as more remarkable than the 
variety of the media he used. Painting in oil and 
water colour, drawing in pastel and in black and 
white, etching, lithography, and interior decoration 
— each was mastered in its turn, and to each afresh 
note was added. An indefatigable worker, he 
probably gained the relief which nature insists 
upon by changing his medium; for he never rested 
from pictorial work of one kind or another. His 
use of pastel was, indeed, a revelation of the capa- 
bilities of that charming material. It is, of course, 
by no means a new form of art, and the old schools 
of pastellists had a recognized manner of treat- 
ment — a style which may very well be described as 
painting in pastel. The colours were laid on in 
great quantity all over the ground, and blended 
and softened by stumping to approximate as nearly 
as possible to the finish and effect of an oil 

8 9 



painting. Very often the drawings were made 
life-size, with the inevitable result that in the 
course of years the surface colours have fallen 
down and may be seen resting on the edge of 
the frame. Mr. Whistler used the chalks with de- 
finite incisive touches, always allowing the paper 
upon which he worked to show largely in the 
finished picture. He almost invariably used brown 
paper, and was very particular in selecting the 
exact shade of colour he required to suit the sub- 
ject in hand. For many years he made studies in 
pastel for his portraits and other paintings, and 
although in so doing he produced many most 
exquisite and perfect works of art, he probably 
did not regard them as final works in themselves. 
His manner of using the material was always the 
same from the beginning — a clear outline of the 
subject in black on the brown paper, and then 
firm decisive strokes of colour, occasionally softened 
with a stump. The studies which are illustrated 
in facsimile in this volume will perhaps explain 
this treatment. They are both very early draw- 
ings, made probably about 1872, since the finished 
pictures — a "White Girl" and the " Portrait of 
Mrs. Leyland" — were exhibited in Pall Mall in 
1874. Many similar studies exist, notably a brilliant 
scheme for a " Blue Girl," of which he endeavoured 
to paint a life-sized picture at least three times, 
90 



STUDY FOR A PORTRAIT OF MRS. LEYLAND. 

From the pastel. 




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Miss Leyland being the model on one occasion 
and Connie Gilchrist on another; while the third 
was exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery under the 
title of " Scherzo in Blue." None of them, how- 
ever, succeeded in attaining to the radiant harmony 
of the pastel, and perhaps this was hardly to be 
expected. Pastel colours, by their very nature, 
being unadulterated by any fixative, as are oil or 
water colours, remain on the surface of the paper 
exactly as the artist first puts them down, in their 
original gem-like brilliancy; unfortunately these 
qualities are gained at the expense of permanence, 
the drawing being liable to complete destruction 
from an accidental rub. 

Mr. Whistler made many beautiful studies of 
nude figures, mostly with transparent drapery of 
brilliant colour, quite classical in character ; they 
are harmonies in blue, green and purple, with 
flesh colour, often with a suggestion of sea and 
sky as a background. There are also many studies 
for portraits in black and white on brown paper, 
such as that of " Baby Leyland " ; and outline 
studies of the nude, such as the preliminary draw- 
ings for the picture of " The Three Girls," some 
of which are as highly finished as any similar 
studies ever made. 

When he went to Venice in 1879, he struck a 
chord in the art, which, as his correspondence 

9* 



with his friends at the time showed, he knew to 
be entirely fresh. He now used the medium in a 
different spirit, as it were, drawing pictures com- 
plete in themselves, not merely studies for oil 
paintings, as the previous ones had been. These 
drawings created great enthusiasm among the 
many artists who were then working in Venice, and 
when some fifty-three of them were shown at the 
Fine Art Society's Gallery in the spring of 1881, 
the success they achieved was instantaneous, few, 
if any, returning to the artist's studio. The Venice 
pictured on the walls was very different from the 
Venice seen by other painters. Canaletto painted 
the Venice of his day soberly and beautifully; Turner 
converted it into a dream of brilliant colours. Mr. 
Whistler's Venice was as real as Canaletto' s, but he 
drew it at sunrise, in the brilliant sunshine of mid- 
day, at sunset, and occasionally, as in the "Winter 
Evening" and the "Nocturne — The Riva," at 
night, bathed in greenish-blue light. The winter 
which he spent in Venice was one of the longest 
and most severe that had been known for many 
years, and it inspired several exquisite drawings, 
notably a sunrise entitled " The Brown Morning 
— Winter," a view of the Salute seen from a 
distance across the pale brown water. 
It is difficult to select any particular pictures for 
mention where all were so fine, but besides those 
92 




BEAD-STRINGERS, VENICE. 
From a pastel. 




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i 






THE OLD MARBLE PALACE, VENICE. 
From a pastel. 



already named we recall especially the " Fishing 
Boats," in which the bright black and yellow sails 
of the large boat form vivid notes of colour, and 
the drawing called ''The Storm — Sunset,"in which 
the domes and towers of the city, seen across a 
wide expanse of dark greenish water, stand up 
dark against orange and scarlet clouds and a pale 
green sky, overshadowed by a lowering storm- 
cloud. This is a picture which, once seen, is never 
forgotten, just as once or twice in a lifetime, per- 
haps, one may see some extraordinary effect in 
nature, which remains with one always as a lasting 
possession. Yet there were other sunsets which, 
though lacking the force of " The Storm," were 
even more exquisite in harmonious colouring ; 
such as " The Riva — Sunset, red and gold," the 
" Sunset, red and gold — The Gondolier," and the 
"Sunset, red and gold — Salute"; three pictures 
which were quite distinct in effect though, as their 
titles show, their dominant colours were similar. 
There were also many drawings of courtyards and 
passages, often in shadow, with a brilliant patch 
of sunlight seen at the end, as in the " Bead- 
stringers," with its group of figures, here illus- 
trated, and studies of buildings, such as "The Old 
Marble Palace," which we also reproduce. In 
many of these, especially in the upright drawings, 
the composition and arrangement is reminiscent 

93 



of Hiroshige, but in colour and treatment they 
are entirely original. 

Besides the fifty-three pastels shown at the Ex- 
hibition, Mr. Whistler drew many others in Venice, 
some of which were as beautiful as any he ever did. 
Among these are several in which for some reason 
or other the artist, after completing an elaborate 
drawing of some narrow canal or old palace, added 
only a few touches of colour and then left it. 
These sketches show a great mastery in archi- 
tectural drawing of the most difficult nature. 
Before leaving this part of our subject, it may be 
interesting to note the enormous amount of work 
which Mr. Whistler accomplished during his stay 
in Venice of not much more than a year. There 
were probably nearly one hundred pastels, a fine 
oil painting — " Nocturne, blue and gold — St. 
Mark's " — (besides another picture of a gondolier 
which was never completed, owing to the model 
falling ill), and a collection of some forty or more 
etchings, which alone would have occupied any 
other worker for several years. 
For some time after his return he made few 
new pastels, but later on he drew a number of 
charming pictures of models, daintily draped, and 
often accompanied by a little nude child, very 
tender in colour and soft in treatment. One of 
these, " The Shell," we are able to illustrate here, 
94 



NUDE STUDY. 
From a black and white drawing 






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and several similar studies were seen at the Inter- 
national Society's exhibitions. 

Although, as we shall show, Mr. Whistler's 
earliest extant productions were executed in water 
colour, he made no use of that medium during 
his maturity until some time after his return from 
Venice. One would have expected him to take 
special delight in an art of such extreme delicacy, 
but his earliest exhibited water colours were 
" Note in Opal— Jersey," and "St. Brelade's Bay," 
shown at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1882. As we 
have been privileged by the kindness of Mrs. 
W. McNeill Whistler to reproduce what is in all 
probability the earliest complete picture by Mr. 
Whistler now in existence, it will be as well to 
refer to it at once. It represents the cobbler with 
whom Sam Weller lodged in the Fleet. Their 
conversation will be remembered: 
" ' Do you alvays smoke arter you goes to bed, old 
cock? ' enquired Mr. Weller of his landlord, when 
they had both retired for the night. 
" ' Yes, I does, young bantam,' replied the cobbler. 
" ' Vill you allow me to en-quire vy you make up 
your bed under that 'ere deal table?' said Sam. 
" ' 'Cause I was alvays used to a four-poster afore 
I came here, and I find the legs of the table answer 
just as well,' replied the cobbler. 

95 



" ' You're a character, sir/ said Sam." 
As will be seen by our illustration the subject is 
very clearly expressed, and if it be said that it is 
distinctly literary in treatment, the answer must 
be that the drawing, which is excellent in colour, 
was made when the artist was about twelve years 
of age ! 

When in Venice Mr. Whistler executed one or two 
water colours, sometimes finishing them with pastel. 
Soon after his return he made a drawing of London 
Bridge, which is illustrated here. The scene is 
glowing in the light of the setting sun, and bright 
notes of colour are introduced in the vehicles 
crossing the bridge. In front is the Old Swan Pier, 
with steamboats on the river, and a great cloud of 
dark smoke rises against the sky and is reflected 
in the water. It is a splendid subject splendidly 
treated, but the artist, not being accustomed to the 
medium, was not himself pleased with it. He 
began using water colour seriously with some 
very beautiful drawings in the Channel Islands 
and studies of figures in the studio, and from time 
to time he made small groups of water colours at 
various places at home and abroad. It is most 
interesting to compare these groups and to note 
how the treatment is varied to give the differing 
aspect and characteristics of each place. One re- 
members specially a drawing of the market-place 
96 




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3 £ 





SOUTHEND— THE PLEASURE YACHT. 
From a water colour. 



at Dieppe, full of figures; and several at St. Ives, 
among which is the exquisite little picture which 
forms our frontispiece. 1 Another, quite small in 
measurement, is taken from the sea-shore, with 
the waves breaking in the foreground, whilst, 
beyond, a succession of fishing-boats is sailing 
away into the mystery of the distant horizon and 
the golden sunset. Each of these drawings is re- 
markable for its extreme delicacy of colour and 
wonderful atmosphere. 

In Dutch cities he found subjects for nocturnes 
quite different from those which he painted in 
other countries. The narrow canals bordered by 
dimly-defined gray buildings, through the windows 
of which the lighted interiors are seen, all softened 
by the evening mists — how these sombre paintings 
contrast with the gaiety of the Southend series ! 
Southend, the home of glorious sunsets, whence 
one may watch the sun sinking into the distant 
smoke of London, across the vast tracts of sand 
and shallow water! Here he painted what is per- 
haps one of the most delightful of all his water 
colours, a drawing which is among the greatest 
treasures of Mr. Way's collection. It represents 
Southend on a bank holiday, with the 'Arries and 
'Arriets promenading along the sea-front, their 
pink and white and black clothing standing out 
1 The reproduction is the actual size of the original. 

h 97 



against the blue-green sea which stretches away to 
the distant Kentish shores. To the right, nearly 
the whole length of the interminable pier is seen, 
broken by the tall masts of a yacht and a distant 
barge, and over all a late afternoon sky with golden 
clouds. Another picture of this series, which is here 
reproduced, shows a tall yacht close in shore, just 
returned from a sixpenny sail; behind is a vast 
extent of blue sea, and above a sky of such delicate 
colour as to be almost imperceptible. 
A large number of water colours, as well as pastels 
and small oil pictures, were seen at the two ex- 
hibitions which Mr. Whistler held at Messrs. 
Dowdeswell's Gallery in 1884 and 1886; and 
among them, besides drawings of the various 
places already mentioned, were many paintings of 
streets and shops in Chelsea (one of which we illus- 
trate) and other parts of London; some of Paris, 
and a number of sea-pieces. There were also some 
charming figure subjects, such as " The Mothers 
Sleep," here reproduced. 

As is true of every medium he used, his work in 
water colour bears the strong impress of his per- 
sonality, and, slight as some of it appears to be, 
the " butterfly " signature is never really necessary 
as a means of identification. It is signed all over, 
and if in the case of any picture purporting to be 
a Whistler it is found necessary to look for the 

98 




I - 

w 2 



butterfly before all doubt is removed, it is quite 
certain that the work, if genuine, is not one of his 
masterpieces. 

There remains one side of the master's art in 
which his pre-eminence has never been questioned, 
namely, interior decoration. Here, no doubt, he 
learnt much from the Japanese, but he brought 
his own sense of colour into his schemes, and the 
results were always strikingly original as well as 
beautiful, and, with the exception perhaps of the 
Peacock Room, were obtained with the simplest 
means. Plain distempered walls and painted wood- 
work, Japanese matting on the floor, plain cur- 
tains hanging in straight folds ; the dining-table 
covered always with its white cloth, on which were 
arranged old silver and blue and white china — 
such were the materials he used in his own homes ; 
and those who were privileged to visit him carried 
away the memory of rooms as entirely simple in 
decoration as they were refined and reposeful in 
effect. 

It is to be feared, however, that few if any of 
these rooms remain, and Mr. Whistler's reputation 
as a decorator will rest on the masterpiece which 
he designed and carried out for Mr. F. R. Leyland 
in 1876-7. The famous shipowner was, if not the 
greatest, at least the most discriminating art patron 

99 



of the Victorian era in London — a man of such taste 
and discernment that he gathered together in his 
house, in Prince's Gate, the finest works of Rossetti, 
Millais, Burne-Jones, Albert Moore and Whistler. 
The interior of the house had been entirely re- 
decorated by Mr. Norman Shaw and Mr. Thomas 
Jeckyll. The dining-room had been intrusted to 
Jeckyll, who built up, inside the original walls, a 
framework of wood, fitted with light shelving for the 
display of blue china, the panels being covered with 
sumptuous Spanish leather. The ceiling, also of 
wood, was panelled and hung with pendant lamps. 
At one end of the room, over the fireplace, hung 
the " Princesse du Pays de la Porcelaine," and a 
large space was left on the opposite wall for the 
picture of " The Three Girls," which Leyland had 
commissioned Mr. Whistler to paint. Probably 
the colour scheme of the room was not to the taste 
of either of them, and the artist is said to have 
shown his friend the scheme of decoration which 
he afterwards carried out with such magnificent 
results. There seems to be no doubt that it was 
not originally designed for this room, but had al- 
ready been offered to another of his patrons, who 
declined it on account of the expense. 
The general features of the room can be seen in 
our illustrations, but it is impossible to realize from 
a description the harmony of the blue and gold 
ioo 



colouring. The groundwork of the whole is a 
superb peacock blue, on which the decoration is 
painted in gold, variety in tone being obtained by 
sometimes painting in blue on gold leaf. The pride 
and swagger of the peacocks on the three window 
shutters are inimitable, and the manner in which 
they fill the spaces is beyond praise. On the great 
panel at the end of the room are two peacocks 
painted in blue and gold and silver, with jewelled 
eyes ; one of them seems to be making a fierce on- 
slaught on the other, and nothing could better 
express the manner in which an angry peacock 
advances, quivering all over, and seeming to fling 
his tail feathers at his adversary. It is no secret 
that Leyland and Mr. Whistler quarrelled, owing 
to some difference of opinion with regard to the 
price to be paid for the work, and that this panel, 
with its symbolical meaning, represents the artist's 
revenge. The walls and ceiling of the room, and 
the doors, were covered all over with the eyes of 
peacocks' feathers and similar decoration, and the 
shelves were gilded. The whole scheme was in- 
tended, of course, to be seen by artificial light, with 
the shutters closed. It is sad to have to record 
that the Peacock Room was bodily taken down in 
the Spring of 1904, and sold by Messrs. Obach 
and Co. to an American collector. 
Mr. Whistler also decorated the staircase in the 

101 



same house, painting charming panels of white 
and rose colour on a green ground. 
Before leaving this house we cannot forbear 
quoting from Mr. Whistler's amusing letter to 
" The World," which was called forth by a criticism 
in " The Plumber and Decorator.'* 
"Alas! look at this!" he says, 1 "It has been 
culled from * The Plumber and Decorator,' of all 
insidious prints. . . . Read, Atlas, and let me 
execute myself : ' The Peacock drawing-room of 
a well-to-do shipowner, of Liverpool, at Queen's 
Gate, London, is hand-painted, representing the 
noble bird with wings expanded, painted by an 
Associate of the Royal Academy at a cost of 
;£ 7,000, and fortunate in claiming his daughter as 
his bride, and is one of the finest specimens of high 
art in decoration in the kingdom. The mansion 
is of modern construction.' 

" He is not guilty, this honest Associate ! It was 
/*, Atlas, who did this thing — ' alone I did it ' — / 
' hand-painted ' this room in the ' mansion of 
modern construction.' Woe is me ! / secreted, in 
the provincial shipowner's home, the ' noble bird 
with wings expanded' — /perpetrated, in harmless 
obscurity, the ' finest specimen of high art decora- 
tion' — and the Academy is without stain in the 

1 "The World," December 31st, 1884. Reprinted in 
"The Gentle Art of Making Enemies," p. 174. 
I02 




PANELS FROM THE PEACOCK ROOM. 




PANEL FROM THE PEACOCK 
ROOM. 



art of its members. Also the immaculate character 
of that Royal body has been falsely impugned by 
this wicked ' Plumber M Mark these things, 
Atlas, that justice may be done, the innocent 
spared, and history cleanly written." 
Those who visited the artist's various exhibitions 
will remember the simple and beautiful decoration 
of the rooms in which they were held. One recalls 
especially the gallery in which the Venice pastels 
were shown, with its high dado of dark warm 
green, and a narrow frieze of pink divided by a 
gilt moulding, the gold being repeated in a deeper 
tone on the skirting board. From this time on- 
wards each gallery had a different scheme of dec- 
oration, equally harmonious and always forming a 
perfect background for the pictures. It is much to 
be regretted that these decorations were so soon 
obliterated and lost. Mr. Whistler also decorated 
Sefior Sarasate's music-room in Paris, which we 
may hope will be preserved; and he was com- 
missioned to decorate one of the rooms in the 
Boston Athenaeum, other rooms in which building 
were decorated by Mr. J. S. Sargent and Mr. E. 
A. Abbey; but it is to be feared that Boston will 
not be able to boast a rival to the " Peacock 
Room." 

Mr. Whistler's fine decorative instinct was also 
brought to bear upon the framing of his pictures. 

103 



He was never content with the stock patterns of 
the frame-maker, but designed his own mouldings, 
and, in the case of his earlier works, even went so 
far as to paint a kind of Japanese pattern on the 
surface of the gold, using one of the dominant 
colours of the picture it inclosed. All his frames 
are extremely simple in style, and it is interesting 
to trace through the years the changes which he 
developed, not only in the mouldings, which were 
mostly arrangements of fine reeds, but in the colour 
of the gold used. With the idea ever in his mind 
that a picture must first of all be a perfect piece 
of decoration on the wall, it was only natural that 
he should have considered the frame — which is 
the means of isolating the picture from its sur- 
roundings — as an integral part of the whole. He 
felt this even in his childhood, for a very old friend 
of his, writing to " The Times " (August 28th, 
1903), says that "in an excellent French letter 
Jemmie sent me from St. Petersburg, when he 
was a lad of ten or eleven, he inclosed some pretty 
pen-and-ink drawings, each on a separate bit of 
paper, and each surrounded by a frame of his 
designing." 

A word may be added with reference to Mr. 
Whistler's book illustrations. Two drawings ap- 
peared in " Good Words " in 1862, as illustrations 
104 



to "The First Sermon"; and four more were 
contributed to the pages of " Once a Week " in 
the same year. These last, which were illustra- 
tions to " The Major's Daughter," " The Relief 
Fund in Lancashire," " The Morning before the 
Massacre of St. Bartholomew," and " Count 
Burckhardt " were afterwards reprinted in Thorn- 
bury's " Historical and Legendary Ballads," pub- 
lished by Chatto and Windus in 1876, and two of 
them are given here. They bear a strong resem- 
blance to his early etchings of figure subjects, and 
show equal command of line. So far as is known 
the only other illustrations by Mr. Whistler, are 
contained in the catalogue of Sir Henry Thomp- 
son's " Collection of Blue and White Nankin Porce- 
lain," published by Ellis and Elvey in 1878. They 
are mostly in colour and give evidence of a won- 
derful mastery of drawing. 



105 



CHAPTER IX 

MR. WHISTLER AS A WRITER 

FOR those who knowand admire Mr. Whistler's 
work, it is difficult to understand the viru- 
lence of the criticism to which for long years all 
that he produced was subjected. The painter of 
portraits which take rank with the greatest crea- 
tions of all time ; of decorative panels which, in 
sheer charm of colour and line have never been 
surpassed; of a series of nocturnes whose tech- 
nique is only equalled by their feeling for Nature 
and their unrivalled sense of atmosphere; the 
master who achieved brilliant and enduring suc- 
cess alike in oil and water colour, in pastel, in 
etching and dry-point, and in lithography, was 
received with obloquy and ribaldry; was mis- 
understood and misrepresented; was denounced 
as a charlatan and a coxcomb. " Even his sitters," 
says Mr. Sickert, 1 " — at a date, be it remembered, 
when the more exquisite achievements of the new 
journalism had not been dreamt of — were sub- 

1 "Whistler to-day" ("Fortnightly Review," April, 1892). 
106 



jected through his work to personal impertinences, 
so that the role of a patron of Whistler's some 
fifteen years ago required not only discrimination 
but some personal courage." Yet he went on un- 
daunted, swerving not a hair's-breadth from the 
path which he had marked out for himself from 
the beginning. 

By nature a fighter, he was roused to fury by the 
ignorance and stupidity which accused him of not 
completing his pictures, 1 of attempting to hood- 
wink the public, of eccentricity and affectation, 
even of vulgarity. Yet it is to be noticed that, in 
all his conflicts with the critics, he fought not in 
order to gratify mere personal hatred and scorn, 
but solely that he might uphold the dignity of his 
art. To Art his whole life was devoted, and his 
brilliant epigrams, his coruscating wit, his violent 
invective, his rapier-like attacks, were called forth 
by indignation at the unintelligent stupidity of 
those who pretended to guide the public taste. 
" There were but two views he was capable of 
taking," says one who knew him well, 2 "the art 

1 In his evidence at the Ruskin trial Burne-Jones said that 
Mr. Whistler " evaded the difficulties of painting by not carry- 
ing his pictures far enough." " This," said " The Times," in 
its leader (November 27th, 1878), " would probably be accepted 
as a fair representation of the truth by everybody." 

2 See a brilliant article by the New York correspondent of 
"The Times" (August 7th, 1903). 

107 



view and the personal view. His enemies said the 
latter prevailed. I do not think it ever prevailed 
where art was concerned. Art was his religion, 
and to his conception of it he was as faithful as a 
Mahomedan to his. Certain things he believed in. 
He believed in them not because other people did, 
or because they had come down to him from 
earlier generations, but because they were his by 
birth and by training and by conviction. The 
temptation, the merely worldly temptation, the 
money temptation, to sacrifice them was very 
great. He never did. He was as incapable of 
compromise as Luther, and he had a conscience 
just as implacable. I do not believe that in the 
darkest days Whistler even so much as considered 
the question of painting to please the public. He 
was his own public, he and the great men and the 
great traditions of the great past." 
The curious will find his innumerable controversies 
recorded in "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies," 
a first edition of which was brought out by Mr. 
Sheridan Ford in New York in 1890. Apparently 
the book was begun with the artist's permission 
and co-operation, but he afterwards withdrew his 
consent to its publication, and it was promptly 
suppressed as soon as it appeared. Later in the 
same year he himself brought out his own edition 
in London, the full title of which ran as follows: 
108 



" The Gentle Art of Making E nemies, as pleasingly 
exemplified in many instances, wherein the serious 
ones of this earth, carefully exasperated ; have 
been prettily spurred on to unseemliness and in- 
discretion, while overcome by an undue sense of 
right." 

We have no intention of passing in review the 
various ephemeral quarrels which form the bulk 
of this volume, and indeed they are better for- 
gotten. His serious contributions to the theory 
and criticism of art are contained chiefly in the 
pamphlet published after the Ruskin trial under 
the title of "Art and Art Critics," in the "Ten 
o'Clock" lecture, and in various notes added to 
the catalogues of his exhibitions. They are writ- 
ten in terse, rhythmical English, and display 
great command of language, while the short, in- 
cisive sentences, the startling epigrams, the ag- 
gressive alliteration, compel our attention. 
In " Art and Art Critics" he makes a vigorous 
onslaught on the critics, whom he would abolish 
altogether, brushing away with infinite scorn the 
plea that criticism is good for art. The painter 
and the painter alone should be the " critic and 
sole authority " on painting, since it is the painter 
who in the long run establishes the recognized 
canons of art. " No!" he cries, "let there be no 
more critics! they are not a 'necessary evil/ but 

109 



an evil quite unnecessary, though an evil cer- 
tainly." He sums up the average "art critic" in 
words which are worth quoting as showing how 
effectively he can use alliteration to emphasize his 
contempt. "Mediocrity flattered at acknowledg- 
ing mediocrity, and mistaking mystification for 
mastery, enters the fog of dilettantism, and gra- 
duating connoisseur ends its days in a bewilder- 
ment of bric-a-brac and Brummagem." Art, he 
insists, must be based on definite scientific laws, 
whereas, at the present day, " taste " is accepted 
as a sufficient qualification for the critic and " art 
is joyously received as a matter of opinion." 
Mr. Whistler did his best to help the despised 
critic by setting forth in the most definite form the 
principles which guided him and to which he 
scrupulously adhered in all his work. Many of 
these invaluable pronouncements have been quoted 
already in the course of this volume, and though 
in his desire to irritate the critics, he often in- 
dulged in paradoxical assertions which are hardly 
to be taken literally, yet a collection of his obiter 
dicta would make an excellent text-book on the 
underlying principles of art, and a study of them 
would do much — indeed it has done much — to 
raise the general level of art criticism. Here is a 
characteristic proposition, expressing a funda- 
mental truth, almost invariably overlooked by 
no 



critics. It is taken from " L'Envoie" to the cata- 
logue of the exhibition of 1884. "A picture is 
finished when all trace of the means used to bring 
about the end has disappeared. To say of a pic- 
ture, as is often said in its praise, that it shows 
great and earnest labour, is to say that it is in- 
complete and unfit for view. Industry in Art is a 
necessity — not a virtue — and any evidence of the 
same, in the production, is a blemish, not a quality; 
a proof, not of achievement, but of absolutely in- 
efficient work, for work alone will efface the foot- 
steps of work." 

In the lecture given at Prince's Hall in 1885, and 
entitled " Ten o'Clock," from the unusual hour of 
delivery, he sums up many of his theories with 
great literary skill. He insists that the artist must 
find his material and his inspiration in his present 
surroundings, "as did Rembrandt, when he saw 
picturesque grandeur and noble dignity in the 
Jews' quarter of Amsterdam, and lamented not 
that its inhabitants were not Greeks." The literary 
predilections, and the sham mediaevalism of the 
pre-Raphaelites, were as abhorrent to him as the 
prosaic realism against which they were a protest. 
The great men — Rembrandt, Tintoret, Paul Vero- 
nese, Velasquez — were not reformers, " improvers 
of the way of others." They were occupied solely 
with the beauty of their work, and " filled with the 

in 



poetry of their science, they required not to alter 
their surroundings. " But now " Beauty is con- 
founded with virtue, and before a work of art, it is 
asked ' What good shall it do ? . . . And thus the 
people have acquired the habit of looking, as who 
should say, not at a picture, but through it, at some 
human fact, that shall or shall not, from a social 
point of view, better their mental and moral state." 
The "unattached writer" is the object of his 
special contempt, for he considers a picture purely 
from the literary point of view, dealing with it " as 
with a novel, a history, or an anecdote. " Thus 
" he degrades Art, by supposing it a method of 
bringing about a literary climax." Mr. Whistler, 
of course, states the question of "Art for Art's 
sake " in an extreme form. Art cannot be divested 
of all human feeling, as indeed his own works 
show. He was indeed actually guilty of several 
book-illustrations, two of which are here printed. 
But even his paintings, as Mr. Swinburne pointed 
out in language as forcible as his own, do not 
appeal to us solely as arrangements of line and 
colour. " It is true," he wrote, 1 "that Mr. Whist- 
ler's own merest * arrangements ' in colour are 
lovely and effective; but his portraits, to speak of 
these alone, are liable to the damning and intoler- 

1 " Mr. Whistler's Lecture on Art " (" Fortnightly Review," 
June, 1888). 

112 




ILLUSTRATION TO " THE MAJOR'S DAUGHTER." 
From " Once a Week." 



113 



able imputation of possessing not merely other 
qualities than these, but qualities which actually 
appeal — I blush to remember and I shudder to 
record it — which actually appeal to the intelligence 
and the emotions, to the mind and heart of the 
spectator.'' Mr. Whistler has, indeed, himself said 
that it is the duty of a portrait painter to paint the 
man, and not merely his features. Yet it is hardly 
fair to accuse him of inconsistency on this score. 
The point on which he wishes to insist is that a 
work of art must stand alone, independent of its 
subject, which is only of value in so far as it in- 
fluences the painter for good or ill. In looking at 
a picture, the question must be, not "What does 
it mean? " but " Is it well painted?" and an artist 
is to be judged not from the subject which he 
chooses, but from his method of handling that sub- 
ject. Rembrandt's "Woman taken in Adultery" 
is not the less a fine work of art because it repre- 
sents an incident in Scripture, nor did Velasquez 
prove himself less great in " The Surrender of 
Breda," where the interest is largely historical, 
than in " Las Hilanderas," where it depends on 
the " arrangement " of light and shade. As in all 
branches of art, what is of supreme importance is 
that the work shall be good of its kind, not hiding 
bad workmanship by a meretricious appeal to 
sentiment, nor claiming by a spurious assumption 

ii5 



of morality an attention which its artistic merits 
do not deserve. 

In an age devoted to material fact, when education 
is considered merely as a preparation for money- 
making, and imagination and poetry are in danger 
of being overwhelmed and destroyed by the sensa- 
tionalism of the press and the growing impatience 
with all ideals that are not purely utilitarian, Mr. 
Whistler, throughout a long life, taught the su- 
preme value of beauty for its own sake, and 
preached the unpopular doctrine that ugliness, how- 
ever useful, is not to be tolerated by a self-respect- 
ing people. It is true that he was a bad preacher. 
The vehemence of his sarcasm and the biting sting 
of his wit, merely irritated his opponents and 
amused the bystanders, so that the truths for 
which he fought were temporarily obscured and 
overlooked. It maybe hoped, however, that they 
will prevail in the end, when the heat of the fray 
is forgotten; and meanwhile his works remain as 
practical illustrations of the principles which he so 
strenuously upheld and so conscientiously carried 
out. 



116 




ILLUSTRATION TO "THE MORNING BEFORE THE 

MASSACRE OF ST. BARTHOLOMEW." 

From " Once a Week." 



WORKS BY JAMES McNEILL 

WHISTLER EXHIBITED AT 

THE ROYAL ACADEMY 

The titles are taken from the Catalogues of the Exhibitions 

1859 
Two Etchings from Nature. 

i860 
At the Piano. 

Monsieur Astruc, Redacteur du Journal 1' Ar- 
tiste. (Drypoint.) 

Portrait. (Drypoint.) 

Thames. Black Lion Wharf. (Etching.) 

W. Jones, Lime-Burner, Thames Street. (Etch- 
ing-) 

The Thames from the Tunnel Pier. (Etching.) 

1S61 
La M£re Gerard. 

Thames from New Crane Wharf. (Etching.) 

119 



The Thames near Limehouse. (Etching.) 
Mons. Oxenfeld, Litterateur, Paris. (Dry- 
point.) 

1862 
The Twenty-fifth of December, i860, on the 

Thames. 
Alone with the Tide. 
Rotherhithe. (Etching.) 

1863 
The Last of Old Westminster. 
Old Westminster Bridge. (Etching.) 
The Forge. (Drypoint.) 
Hungerford Bridge. (Etching.) 
Weary. (Drypoint.) 
Monsieur Becgio. (Etching.) 
The Pool. (Drypoint.) 

1864 
Wapping. 
Die Lange Leizen — of the Six Marks. 

1865 
The Golden Screen. 
Old Battersea Bridge. 
The Little White Girl. 
The Scarf. 
120 



1867 
Symphony in White, No. 3. 
Battersea. 
Sea and Rain. 

1870 
The Balcony. 

1872 

Arrangement in Gray and Black. Portrait of 
the Painter's Mother. 

1879 
Etching: Old Putney Bridge. 



T2I 



INDEX 



Alexander, Miss, Portrait of, 

8, 10, 1 6, 35, 43- 
Amsterdam series of etchings, 

76. 
"Angry Sea, The," 19, 6$. 
"Art and Art Critics," 9, 109. 
"Artist's Studio, The," 39. 
"At the Piano," 7, 15, 18, 

22. 

"Balcony, The," 7, 25, 32, 

33- 

"Baronet and the Butterfly, 

The," 11. 
Battersea, Lord, 33. 
Beam, Comtesse de, 50. 
"Black Lion Wharf " (Etching), 

70. 
" Blue Girl, The," 46, 90. 
" Blue Wave— Biarritz," 63. 
"Bognor" (Nocturne in Blue 

and Silver), 61. 
Book-illustrations, 104, 105, 

112. 
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, 

Burne-Jones, Sir E., 107. 
Burrell, Mr. W., 32, 46. 



Campbell, Lady Archibald, 

Portrait of, 9, 50. 
Canaletto, the Venice of, 92. 
Carlyle, Thomas, Portrait of, 

8, 10, 16, 35, 42, 43. 
Channel Islands, water colours 

done in the, 95, 96. 
Chapman, Mr., 32. 
"Chelsea in Ice," 57. 
"Chelsea Rags," 64. 
" Chelsea Reach," 60. 
" Chelsea Shops," 64. 
"Chelsea— Snow," 20, 61. 
Child, Mr. Theodore, quoted, 

33- 
Chopin, 54. 
Cole, Sir Henry, Portrait of 

Corder, Miss Rosa, Portrait 

of, 9, 10, 16, 35, 45. 
Cowan, Mr. J. J., 50, 64. 
"Cremorne Gardens," 61. 
" Cremorne Lights," 59. 
" Cure's Little Class, The," 64. 

Daumier, 78. 

Davis, Mr. Edmund, 22, 29, 
57- 

123 



Decorative work, 99; Mr. 

Whistler's own houses, 99; 

the Peacock Room, 99-103; 

Exhibition galleries, 103; 

Sarasate's music-room, 103; 

picture frames, 103, 104. 
"Dieppe— Blue and Silver," 64. 
Dowdeswells, Messrs., 9, 7 2, 98. 
Du Maurier, George, 6. 
Duret, M. Theodore, Portrait 

of, 38, 47> 48. 

"Early Morning" (lithograph), 

71, 79, 82. 
Eden, Sir William, 11. 
" Etchings and Drypoints," 

first and second series, 9. 
Etchings, Whistler's, greatness 

of, 65, 66; qualities of, 67; 

the little French Set, 67, 68; 

the Thames series, 68-71; 

the Venice sets, 72-76; later 

plates, 76, 77. 

"Falling Rocket, The," 59. 

Fantin-Latour, M., 78. 

Fine Art Society, The, 9, 12, 
68, 72, 78, 92. 

"Fire-wheel, The," 59, 60. 

Fleet at Spithead, etchings of 
the, 76. 

Ford, Mr. Sheridan, 109. 

Freer, Mr. C. L., 26, 33. 

"Fur Jacket, The," 45, 46. 

Gavarni, 78. 

"Gentle Art of Making En- 
emies, The," 11, 108. 
124 



Gilchrist, Connie, portraits of, 

9, 91. 
Glasgow, Corporation of, 43. 
Godwin, E. W., 13. 
Godwin, Mrs. See Whistler, 

Mrs. 
"Golden Screen, The," 7, 21, 

25> 3 2 > 33. 

"Good Words," illustrations 
in, 104, 105. 

Gould, Miss, exhibition ar- 
ranged by, 10. 

Goupil, Messrs., 11. 

Grosvenor Gallery, Whistler's 
exhibits at the, 8, 9. 

Haden, Sir Seymour, 6, 65. 

Haden, Lady, 22. 

Hamerton, P. G., Whistler's 
reply to, 30. 

Henley, W. E., his love of 
London compared with 
Whistler's, 56; lithograph 
portrait of, 88. 

Hiroshige, influence of, on 
Whistler, 58, 59, 94. 

Holbein, 25, 34, 35. 

Holloway, C. E., Portrait of, 50. 

"Hothouse, The." See Sym- 
phony in White, No. 4. 

Hulmandel, 81. 

Huth, Mrs., Portrait of, 50. 

International Society of Sculp- 
tors, Painters and Gravers, 
The, 12. 



Irving as Philip II. of Spain, 
10, 47> 48. 

Japan, influence of, on Whist- 
ler, 23-25, 99. 
Jarvis, Mrs., Portrait of, 50. 

" Lange Leizen, Die," 7, 32. 

"Last of Old Westminster, 
The," 7, 18, 57. 

Leyland, Mr. F. R., 31, 53, 
99-101; Portrait of, 8, $8, 
46. 

Leyland, Mrs. F. R., 60; Por- 
trait of, 8, 46; study for the 
portrait of, 90. 

Leyland, the Misses, portrait 
studies of, 46. 

" Leyland, Baby," portrait 
study of, 46, 91. 

"Lillie in Our Alley," 50. 

Lithographs, W T histler's, 10, 1 2 ; 
some qualities of, 79, 80; 
earliest prints, 80-82 ; variety 
of, 83; nude studies, 84; 
portraits, 84, 85, 87; Lon- 
don subjects, 85, 87, 88; 
development of technique, 
85, 86; the Luxembourg 
Gardens series, 86; the Lyme 
Regis subjects, 86; latest 
prints, 87, 88. 

" Little French Set " of etch- 
ings, 6, 67. 

"Little Sweet-stuff Shop, The," 
64. 



" Little White Girl, The," 7, 

21, 26, 27. 
London, Whistler settles in, 

6, 7; his love of, 56. 
" London Bridge " (water 

colour), 96. 
Lyme Regis, Whistler at, 12, 

49, 50, 86. 

McCulloch, Mr. George, 38, 

Manuel, Stevie, Portrait of, 49. 
"Master Smith of Lyme Regis, 

The," 12, 49- 
"Mere Gerard, La," 7, 15, 22. 
Meryon, Charles, 65. 
Meux, Lady, Portraits of, 9, 

47- 

Montesquiou, M. R. de, Por- 
trait of, 50. 

Moore, Albert, compared with 
Whistler, 3. 

Moore, Mr. George, quoted, 

43, 44- 
"Mother's Portrait, The," 8, 

10, 16, 17, 35, 40-42. 
" Mother's Sleep, The " (water 

colour), 98. 
"Music-Room, The," 23. 
Muther, Dr., quoted, 54. 

" Nocturne in Blue and Silver, 

No. 1," 60. 
Nocturnes, 51, 54, 59-63, 94; 

origin of the word, 53; 

Whistler's definition of, 53^.; 

125 



nfluence of Hiroshigein, 59; 
etchings, 68, 74, 76; litho- 
graphs, 79, 82; pastels, 92. 

" Nocturnes, Marines and 
Chevalet Pieces," Exhibi- 
tion of, 11. 

"Notes, Harmonies and Noc- 
turnes," first and second 
series, 9. 

" Ocean, the," 62. 

"Old Battersea Bridge," 57. 

" Old Battersea Bridge" (Noc- 
turne), 59. 

" Once a Week," illustrations 
in, 105. 

"Papilio Mordens," 10. 

Paris, Whistler in, 12. 

Pastel, old use of, 89; Whist- 
ler's method of work in, 90; 
early studies, 90, 91; Vene- 
tian series, 91-94. 

Peacock Room, The, 31, 99- 
103. 

Pennell, Mrs., on Mr. Whist- 
ler's lithographs, quoted, 
84. 

" Philosopher, The," 50. 

"Piano Picture, The." See 
"At the Piano." 

"Piccadilly," lithographs made 
for, 81, S3. 

"Pink and Gray— Chelsea," 

58. 
" Princesse du Pays de la Por- 

126 



celaine, La," 7, 18, 25, 32, 
100. 
Prinsep, Mrs. Val, 46 

Rembrandt, 34, 111, 113; his 
etchings and Whistler's com- 
pared, 65, 66. 

"Rose of Lyme Regis, The," 
12, 49. 

" Rotherhithe " (etching), 69. 

Royal Academy, Whistler's 
exhibits at the, 6, 7. 

Royal Society of British Art- 
ists, Whistler and the, 9, 
10. 

Ruskin, Whistler and, 8. 

"St. Ives" (water colour), 97. 
Sarasate, Sehor, 47, 48, 49. 
"Scherzo in Blue," 46, 91. 
" Shell, The " (pastel), 94. 
Sickert, Mr. Walter, quoted, 

61, 106. 
Southend, water colours done 

at, 97, 98. 
Spartali, Miss, 32. 
Stevenson, R. A. M., quoted, 

38. 
Studd, Mr. A. H., 27, 60. 
"Sun Cloud, The," 63. 
Swinburne, Mr. A. C, 7, 28, 

41, 112. 
" Symphony in White, No. 1." 

See " The White Girl." 
" Symphony in White, No. 2." 

See "The Little White Girl." 



" Symphony in White, No. 3." 

7, 21, 25, 26, 29. 
11 Symphony in White, No. 4." 

S<?* "The Three Girls." 

"Tall Bridge, The" (litho- 
graph), 80. 

Technique, Whistler's, in paint- 
ing, 14-19. 

"Ten o'Clock," 11, 109, in. 

Thames, the, pictures of, 7, 55- 
60 ; etchings of, 68-71; litho- 
graphs of, 79, 82, 83, 87. 

"Thames in Ice, The," 7, 18, 

Thompson, Sir Henry, his 
" Catalogue of Nankin Por- 
celain," 105. 

"Three Girls, The," 25, 26, 30, 
91, 100. 

Tintoret, 15, 34, in. 

" Toilet, The " (lithograph) 80. 

"Traghetto, The" (etching), 

74- 
Turner, the Venice of, 92. 

Underdowne, Mr., Q.C., 10. 

Valparaiso, Whistler's visit to, 7 . 
"Valparaiso Harbour," 19, 62. 
"Valparaiso" (Nocturne in 

Blue and Gold), 62, 63. 
Vanderbilt, Mr., portrait of, 50. 
Velasquez, 34, 35, 37, 44j 45, 

48, in, 113. 



Venice, Whistler's visit to, 9; 
etchings at, 9, 72-76; pastels 
at, 9, 91-94; Whistler's re- 
presentation of, different 
from that of other painters, 
92; water colours at, 96. 

" Venice— St. Mark's," 94. 

Water colour, earliest work in, 
94; Channel Islands series, 
96; drawings in Holland 
and at Southend, 97; later 
subjects, 98. 

Way, Mr. Thomas, 40, 79, 81, 

97- 

"Weary" (etching), 72. 

Wedmore, Mr., quoted, 75. 

Weller, Sam, 95. 

Whistler, James McNeill, com- 
pared with Albert Moore, 3 ; 
his versatility, 3; in Paris, 
6; settles in London, 6; 
visit to Valparaiso, 7; his 
first exhibition, 7 ; the Rus- 
kin trial, 8; goes to Venice, 
9; further exhibitions, 9, 10; 
elected President of the 
Royal Society of British 
Artists, 10; complimentary 
dinner to, 10; his litho- 
graphs, 10, 12; his "Ten 
o'Clock," 11 j his writings, 
11 ; exhibition at Messrs. 
Goupil's, 1 1; settles in Paris, 
1 2 ; at Lyme Regis, 1 2 ; first 
President of the Interna- 
127 



tional Society, 12; his death, 
12 ; honours conferred on, 
13; his method of painting, 
14; his painting of flesh, 16 ; 
his painting of accessories, 
17; his landscapes, 18 ; ex- 
planation of the titles of his 
pictures, 20, 21; influence 
of Japan on, 23-25; his "at- 
mosphere," 26, 58; his por- 
trait painting, 34-38; "Por- 
traits of Himself," 38-40; 
qualities of his landscapes, 
51; his nocturnes, 53, 54; 
his pictures of the Thames, 
55, 56; compared with Hen- 
ley, 56; his etchings, 65-77; 
compared with Rembrandt, 
65, 66; his principles in 
etching, 66, 67; his litho- 
graphs, 78-88; his pastels, 
89-95; ms earliest water 



colour, 95; other water 
colours, 96-99; his decora- 
tive work, 99-103; his pic- 
ture frames, 103; his book- 
illustrations, 104; virulence 
of criticism directed against, 
106; his devotion to Art, 
107; his writings on Art, 
109; the "Ten o'Clock" 
lecture, in; value of his 
teaching, 116. 

Whistler, Mrs., 13; lithograph 
portrait of, 88. 

Whistler, Dr. W. McNeill, por- 
trait of, 40; lithograph por- 
trait of, 85. 

Whistler, Mrs. W. McNeill, 40, 

95- 

" White Girl, The," 7, 21, 26. 

"White Girl" (picture de- 
faced), 26, 27; study for, 
27, 90. 



CHISWICK PRESS : PRINTED BY CHARLES WHITTINGHAM AND CO. 
TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE, LONDON. 



The Art of James McNeill Whistler 



BY 



T. R. WAY and G. R. DENNIS. 



Some Opinions on the First Edition. 

"That pleasant little book on Whistler, which, without being an 
actually unprejudiced, an actually adequate study, is yet, as a whole, the 
only serious single-minded contribution to men's knowledge of the master 
that has been received in book form, at all events, since his death." — 
Mr. Frederick Wedmore in The Nineteenth Century •, Aprils 1904. 

" If anything were needed to give the world a just view of one 
whom it so entirely misunderstood in life, it is supplied by the admirably 
complete, sympathetic, and richly illustrated study of Messrs. Way and 
Dennis." — Mr. A. G. Gardiner in The Daily Neivs. 

" The book is not a hasty compilation thrown together to meet the 
requirements of the market, but a sober and thoughtful study of the art 
of one of the most gifted and interesting of modern artists. The authors 
write with an intimate knowledge of their subject, and a sincere admira- 
tion of Mr. Whistler's work. There is hardly any attempt at criticism, 
and none to forestall the verdict of the future on an artist who has been 
praised and abused somewhat immoderately; but the good sense of the 
authors, their discretion, their affection and evident sincerity, give great 
charm to their unaffected eulogy. The volume is amply illustrated, not 
only with photographic reproductions of the more important paintings, 
etchings and book illustrations, water colours and lithographs, but also 
with some excellent colour reproductions of pastels and water colours. 
The water colour of St. Ives, which forms the frontispiece, is really a 
triumph of reproductive art." — Manchester Guardian. 

" If the world still requires a brief to be held for this great master, 
it is surely to be found in the admirable book by T. R. Way and 
G. R. Dennis, ' The Art of James McNeill Whistler.' It is called an 
'appreciation.' This it is: and at the same time, dealing wholly as it 
does with the art of the man and leaving details of his career to be 
supplied by other writers, it is a splendidly considered tribute to the 
artist's genius, and an accurate guide to the special characteristics of 
his work. Mr. Thomas Way is the fortunate possessor of a large number 
of Whistler's pastels, water colours, and etchings, and the sumptuous 
book is enriched with some admirable reproductions without being 
swollen to inordinate size either by the number of its illustrations, the 
width of the margins, or the thickness of the paper. The colour print- 
ing, notably in the reproduction of the spiritual St. Ives sketch, is very 
fine, and the book is one which no art-lover will want to be without." — 
St. James's Gazette. 



" It is simply and sympathetically composed, and the selection of 
the illustrations, which are excellently numerous, shows judgment and 
good taste. . . . The book, though not final, is yet excellent. Every true 
lover of the daintiest and most refined and most original of Modern Art 
will certainly buy it." — Standard. 

" The authors are to be congratulated on their sympathetic treat- 
ment of so difficult a subject. Their lucid explanation of Whistler's aims 
and style should help to convince those who still hesitate to acknowledge 
his supreme mastery." — Daily Mail. 

" A very timely and unpretentious as well as useful book. ... To 
the public at large this volume of Messrs. Way and Dennis is strongly 
to be recommended, for it will teach them to see and understand the 
art of one of the greatest artists of all time." — World. 

" As a record of his producing, as a history of the origin of many of 
his finest works, and as an intelligent exposition of his marvellous art 
this volume is of serious importance. To the few, Whistler was known 
and understood; it is a generous act to make known his work to others, 
to seek to reveal something of his methods, and to train the eye to 
appreciate the results. As a collection of reproductions, too, of these 
comparatively little known pictures this volume is of exceptional worth." 
— Bookman. 

"Whistler's works and views on art are described in simple lan- 
guage, with commendable restraint of technical phraseology, while the 
number and excellence of the reproductions of his compositions should 
cause the book to be prized by both laymen and experts." — To-Day. 

"The work, written with much taste, evident knowledge of Mr. 
Whistler's art, and eminent discrimination, is an admirable exposition of 
the principles on which he worked, and a worthy vindication of the 
claim put forth by friends on his behalf, of his right to be enrolled 
among the immortals. . . . He who would know Mr. Whistler as an 
artist would do well to read it." — Scotsman. 

" In writing of ' The Art of James McNeill Whistler,' Mr. Way 
and Mr. Dennis display an ease which can only be the outcome of pro- 
found knowledge. They call their book 'an appreciation.' This it 
certainly is, but it is not one of those one-sided enthusiastic outpourings 
which inevitably raise a spirit of controversy in the minds of people who like 
to judge for themselves. They have simply put down what the man has 
done in a sympathetic and interesting way, thereby letting him speak for 
himself, with no appeal for the praise of a public whose opinions he ever 
scorned. . . . The wide range of Mr. Whistler's genius is clearly held out 
to our view. They give a concisely worded history of his excellence in 
oils, water colours, etchings, drypoints, pastels, lithographs, and decora- 
tive art, and the half-tone reproductions with which the book is illus- 
trated add much to the value of the criticisms and to the charm of the 
descriptions." — Mr. M. E. Pountney in The Weekly Critical Review" 



LONDON: GEORGE BELL AND SONS.